PROSE AND VERSE
PROSE AND VERSE
EDITED, WITH MEMOIR,
JOHN MINTO ROBERTSON, M.A.
THE present volume, which is produced under the auspices
of the Former Pupils' Club of Albyn Place School, Aberdeen,
is in the nature of a memorial of the late Principal of that
School. It consists of a short memoir, followed by a selection
from the fugitive pieces, in prose and verse, contributed by
Mr. Mackie to various newspapers and periodicals.
In the editing of such a volume the sole difficulty has been
selection, for it must be remembered that the pieces chosen
form but one sheaf of a plenteous literary harvest. As far
as possible the choice has been governed by the wish to make
the book representative first, of Mr. Mackie's literary style ;
second, of his tastes and activities ; third, of the North-East
The bulk of the articles and poems appeared originally in
the columns of " The Aberdeen Free Press," and " The Scottish
Field." To the proprietors of these publications, as also to
the respective proprietors of " The Gentleman's Magazine,"
" Alma Mater," " Turriff School Magazine," and " Albyn Place
School F.P. Magazine," grateful thanks are due for permission
Knowing there were others far more competent, I ne.ver-
theless counted it a privilege to be asked to write the Memoir
of Mr. Mackie. Friendship apart, I felt that some two-and-a-
half years spent as a member of his staff entitled me to speak
with a certain intimacy and confidence of his work in Educa-
tion. And that, after all, was his life-work.
J. M. R.
TURRIFF, October, 1916.
\Verse in Italics]
Sunset and Sunrise ..... i
The Silver Dee ... 6
The Sullen Don g
The D ever on IO
A Sea-Birds' Nursery .... 12
The Deep Sea . ..... 10
From" Bud to Leaf .... 21
A Spring Flood 25
An Amateur's Garden ??
David Renton ~6
William Carnie .... '->-
James Myers Danson 3 3
George Webster Thomson 39
To the Dandelion .... 4O
The Common Mole . ,,-,
The Common Sparrow ... 46
The Welcome .o
John Marshall Lang 4 g
Alexander \ Bain .... e O
Professor Masson .... c r
The Prayer of Greyfriars .... 56
The Centuries XI Xth and XXth 58
The Tree Artistic and the Tree Commercial ... 60
Matthew Arnold 64
Robert Brough 65
James Moir 66
An October Run 67
A Blizzard in Buchan 71
At the Grave of Burns 76
A Black Fishing 77
A Christmas Turkey 82
The Mairrage 84
The Loon Fae Aiberdeen ....... 89
The Loon Fae Foggy loan 91
'""T'HE schoolmaster of the North last century was a strongly-
1 marked type. Bred on the fortifying classical curri-
culum, he made that the staple of his own teaching. Humanity,
in fact, in the sense which still obtains at King's College, and
without any thought of Comte, was his religion. The type
reached its apotheosis in Melvin. Boys were the raw material
of teaching, and they were brought up strictly to meditate the
Latin muse on a little oatmeal, to abhor " maxies " as the
snares of the Evil One, and to fear " Grim " and keep his com-
mandments. It was a rigorous discipline, and many fell by
the wayside ; but he that endured to the end might enter the
University, maybe with the martyr's halo of first bursar!
From that type of schoolmaster the subject of this memoir
derived, but with certain variations. Reared in the classical
tradition, under a worthy successor of the great Melvin,
Alexander Mackie, whether at school or college, showed his
forte to lie in English, and, as teacher, strengthened by the
moral support of " barbarian " Bain, he refused to bow down
and worship Greek and Latin as the sole deities of the educa-
tional Pantheon. Instead, he set himself to win for English
Language and Literature a place and dignity in the school
curriculum these had never before enjoyed.
His other break with established pedagogic tradition was
even more noteworthy ; for, while the typical dominie of that
day was still paying his exclusive attention to that hope of
the flock, the " lad o' pairts," Alexander Mackie had discovered,
and was busy exploiting, even to the extent of University
x ALEXANDER MACKIE
degrees, that phenomenon of the latter half of the nineteenth
century, the " lass o' pairts ! " His work in this field, indeed,
earns him rank in the North as one of the pioneers of the
higher education of women.
But, while education was his life-work, he had many other
interests and hobbies. Wielding the pen of a ready writer, he
contributed alike to the edification of schools and the delight
of the general reader. A lover of the open air and outdoor
life, he found his favourite pastimes in fishing and gardening,
and these in turn furnished him with many of his most charming
themes as a writer. With a happy knack for occasional verses,
he revealed notable gifts as a sonneteer, while as a popular
lecturer on literary topics, especially the Scots dialect, he
achieved a fame that became transatlantic. His voice was
heard with respect in the councils of his University, and his
position as a scholar and litterateur was fittingly acknowledged
when he was asked to be the first editor of " The Aberdeen
University Review." His was a richly-dowered personality,
intellectual, imaginative, sun-lit, breeze-blown, exhaling kindli-
ness, a personality we may well try to portray in fuller measure.
If Disraeli could say he was born in a library, Alexander
Mackie could say he was born in a garden. It was in that
lovely oasis in treeless Buchan, the demesne of Delgaty Castle,
that the boy first opened his eyes, September II, 1855, and
there, from earliest infancy, he was reared in the very lap of
nature. But, though Buchan-born, he was Banff-bred ; for his
father, Joseph Mackie, was promoted to be head gardener at
Duff House to the Earl of Fyfe, soon after Alexander's birth.
Thus the boy grew up amid the picturesque and romantic
surroundings of the ancient county town.
The environment was such as to mould the impressionable
mind of youth river, tree, and hill, the bloom of cultivated
gardens, the surge of the untameable sea. Here the lad looked
on Nature in her every mood of stern and fair, and here he
spent a boyhood of tree-climbing, bird's-nesting, fishing,
bathing, with spells of quiet reading in shady nooks a true
nursling of mother earth. Such a boy was fitting father to
the man who was so passionately devoted to nature, whether as
found in urban garden, by river bank, or in the pages of
Of his liege lord, " the Earl," the boy naturally stood in
wholesome awe, and to him, in those days of feudal vassalage,
the radical outburst of Johnny Gibb, when he entered Macduff
and found a street-name changed to " Duff Street," would,
doubtless, have savoured of blasphemy " The fowk o' this
place wud ca' their vera tykes aifter the Yerl o' Fife "-
though in his lecturing days he used to quote the incident with
great gusto. Of the Earl's son, the late Duke, who was only
a few years his own senior, Alexander had many recollections,
whether as haling him off to try his hand with a gun a ploy
in which he was foiled by the youngster's obstreperous resist-
ance or as bounteously dispensing Christmas cheer to the
estate retainers and their families, and plying with viands the
chubby- faced boy, now more complaisant to noblesse oblige,
"We're sure Fatty can take another helping."
An adventure in boyhood's days was to seek out the secluded
spot where stood the family mausoleum of the Earl. Peeping
through the iron latticework, and dimly descrying within the
sable coffins, he doubtless remembered the while the eerie
experience of Tarn o' Shanter. But the chief spot round
which clustered romance was the Gallow Hill, where, tradition
had it, Macpherson, the Rob Roy of the North, made his
dramatic exit from life. The romantic story of the famous
freebooter had a fascination for the imaginative boy. The
outlaw's deeds of derring-do his capture by treachery at a
market fair the picturesque circumstances of his execution on
the Gallow Hill, when the hands of the town clock were put
xii ALEXANDER MACKIE
forward, to anticipate the messenger who was seen approaching
afar off with a reprieve his playing on his own fiddle, beneath
the gallows, the rant he had composed in prison, followed
by his breaking of the instrument across his knee and flinging
it into the grave that awaited him in all this, fiction though
much of it undoubtedly was, the boy saw the material out of
which Sir Walter's magic wand might have created a Waverley
novel ; and the rollicking lilt of Burns's poem, " Macpherson's
Farewell," was ever singing in his ears :
" Sae rantingly, sae wantonly,
Sae dauntingly gaed he ;
He played a spring, and danced it round,
Below the gallows tree."
The boy had his first schooling at the Free Church Institu-
tion in Macduff, and there, within sight and sound of the bay,
the cries of the fishermen on board their smacks borne to him
on the salt sea-breezes, he received instruction from that
notable schoolmaster, David Renton. The lure of the sea
was strong upon the young lad, as one may note in the sonnet
where he pays tribute to the sterling worth of his old dominie ;
and it was well for him, doubtless, that he met with no Salvation
Yeo, to tempt him with tales of El Dorado beyond the seas.
The El Dorado set before the boy was a much
more sober affair the University ; and, as a preparation
for that and its great athletic, the Bursary Competition,
Alexander betook himself in 1870 to the Aberdeen
Grammar School. Of his feelings on approaching that
imposing pile, especially imposing after the humble build-
ing in Macduff, he made in later years public confession.
It was a crisp October morning, and, even with a University
graduate to support him in his entrance to this new world, the
stranger felt much abashed. The homely sight, however, of
someone delving in his potato-garden on the slopes running
down to the Den Burn a someone who proved to be no less
than the writing-master, Mr. Pope revived his drooping spirits.
A teacher who could dig and hoe was a friendly omen, and the
boy entered with cheerfulness on his career as a Grammarian.
The school then consisted simply of five classes, and the
newcomer entered Class IV., a part of the school where Mr.
Pope did not hold sway, so that, whatever the lad's demerits
were in caligraphy, he could at least plead he had never been a
" Papist " ! He studied Livy and Virgil under the benign rule
of the Rev. James Legge, while Beverly's rugged " versions "
led little by little to the heaven of schoolboys, Sine Errore.
Macarthur, the mathematical master, kept poor order in class,
and was literally egged on to resign by his unruly pupils!
Far other was the tone of the highest class, where the rector,
Alexander Martin, held sway. Sternest of disciplinarians, he
might have been the original Martinet. Under his teaching
the pupils felt the full blast of the bracing Borealic Humanities,
and, as true " grammarians," ground at accidence and syntax,
" settled Hoti's business, properly based Oun, gave us the
doctrine of the enclitic De," plodded Xenophon's weary
parasangs, soaring their one flight in some of the odes of
Anacreon, and so girt up their loins for the Olympic of the
Alexander won the sixth bursary, and in October, 1872,
took his way, a modest Bajan, to King's College. The Arts
curriculum of those days was marked by breadth of scope
rather than by the specialization of to-day. For the ordinary
M.A. degree the student took seven subjects, amongst which he
had to include representatives of languages, philosophy, mathe-
matics, and science. Two chiefs divided the allegiance of the
Aulton in those days Geddes and Bain, the one standing for
the severe discipline of the classics, the other for a no less
severe discipline in Logic and English. " Homer " was too
striking a figure not to appeal to Alexander Mackie, and,
xiv ALEXANDER MACKIE
visiting King's College Chapel in after years, the latter wrote
with enthusiasm how
Whose hoary head and stately mien combine
To make a picture regal, richly dight,
The lessons reads, intoning hallowed words aright."
But it was "Logic" who claimed the student's unquestioning
homage. At his feet he sat with reverence, proving himself
one of his most distinguished disciples, and, when he graduated
M.A. in 1876, it was with the proud honour of the Seafield
Gold Medal in English.
With thoughts of the Church, Alexander Mackie entered
the Free Church Divinity Hall, and spent three years there.
Accompanied by his college friend, J. A. Selbie now Professor
he also took a summer session at Tubingen, where, in a
thoroughly German atmosphere, he studied theology mildly, the
Teutonic tongue seriously, and formed first-hand impressions of
academic and burgher life in the Fatherland. On his return to
Aberdeen, he won the Lumsden Scholarship, for an essay on
" The Augsburg Confession and Apology."
But theology was not for him. The end of the three years
left him unconvinced of his call to the Church. It was not so
much that he bewailed with George Meredith the time and
talents thrown away in the making of theological works with
his strong philosophic bent there was a distinct attraction to
Divinity as that the Robertson Smith heresy case and
judgment cooled the young student's ardour as that of many
another, warning him off to other pastures, if he would enjoy
full freedom of intellect. Also, as assistant to Professor Bain
in English and Logic a post he had obtained while still in the
Divinity Hall he had already discovered his true vocation as
a teacher and expositor of the word of literature. Accord-
ingly, having ceased his University connection on the Pro-
fessor's retirement in 1880, he threw in his lot with Miss
Warrack, then Principal of the Union Place School for Girls.
A woman of shrewd penetration, Miss Warrack soon realised
the valuable asset she had got in the brilliant young graduate,
and, six years later, when she withdrew from active teaching,
she handed over to him the full management and control of the
school, which from that date first in Union Place, later in
Albyn Place was to be indissolubly linked with his name.
Courage to undertake the principalship of a private school
for girls came doubtless from that other momentous step which
the young teacher had taken a short time before. On July 3,
1884, in St. John's Church, Aberdeen, Alexander Mackie
married Philippa Rattray, daughter of Dr. Robert Gordon
Rattray, medical superintendent of the Aberdeen Royal
Infirmary, and sister of his own class fellow, Dr. John M.
Rattray. It was a marriage of true minds, and fair science
frowned not on it, for Mr. P. J. Anderson was groomsman,
while the speech of the occasion was made by Dr. Bain. A
teacher herself, and an appreciative student of literature, Mrs.
Mackie was admirably fitted to be the helpmeet of her husband
in his scholastic enterprise. To the happy home she made for
him at Ashprington, all can testify who had the privilege of
entrance there. She was to her husband that mate of whom
Stevenson sang :
" Teacher, tender, comrade, wife,
A fellow-farer true through life."
The work accomplished by Mr. Mackie as an educationist
was twofold. Partly it consisted in organising his school on
the lines of the forward movement in the North of Scotland
for the higher education of women, partly it consisted in his
own work as a teacher of English. Excellence in the one
capacity does not imply excellence in the other, but when they
do meet, as they met in the person of Alexander Mackie, -the}'
constitute, indubitably, a great teacher.
What his personality meant to the school was soon seen in
the popular name by which the latter was referred to among
xvi ALEXANDER MACKIE
outsiders " Mackie's School." Certain loyal pupils resented
this as a misnomer, but really it was a compliment to the Head.
Never was Head more entitled to claim, never was Head less
likely to claim, " L'ecole, cest moi"
It was truly a remarkable work that Mr. Mackie performed
as a pioneer of women's higher education the more remark-
able because done in a private school, with no grants or aid
from Government or Education Departments, and all the
expenditure and risks to be borne by the one private purse.
It argued courage, enterprise, and a serene faith. If there
were shoals and quicksands, you never knew from Mr. Mackie.
His motto in life seemed to be that which the Roman Emperor
gare to the Praetorian Guard on the eve of his death,
The theorists were busy arguing for or against higher
education for women. How far was it practicable, how far
desirable? Should they have entrance to the University? If
so, should every Faculty be open to them ? Were girls capable
of the arduous struggle of the Bursary Competition? Was
not the female brain lighter, avoirdupois, than the male ? Thus
the controversialists. Alexander Mackie showed the accom-
It was a wide curriculum his school offered. Unfettered
by boards or inspectors, he had more freedom of movement
than the ordinary state-aided school, and could give due heed
to the wishes of parents. His aim primarily was to offer to
the girls of our well-to-do middle class a liberal education,
with outlet to the University for those who so desired. From
the heat and fever of competitive examinations he tried to
keep free ; yet public confidence had to be won, and the surest
way to attain that in the North, as elsewhere, was to be able
to point to results. The University Local Examinations
afforded him an excellent field of compromise, where his pupils
might aim at a definite standard of attainment, prove their
mettle against other institutions, and yet breathe an air
untainted by cramming.
The variety of curriculum prevailing in such a school a
private enterprise, be it ever remembered might well astonish
the governors of our public schools. First, there were all the
ordinary subjects taught in our elementary schools, the range
of the school extending from Kindergarten Department to pre-
paration for the University Preliminary Examinations. Then
there were the subjects and accomplishments which once were
the sole or chief educational garniture of the daughters of the
better class music, dancing, drawing, and painting. Finally,
in the upper school, there were the subjects essential for
the University Local and Entrance Examinations English
Language and Literature, Mathematics, Science, Languages
ancient and modern. It was a many-branched curriculum, with
hockey and tennis as recreations in the background. From
morn till eve the school was ahum with activity, from the base-
ment, where feet were " shod with the preparation of peace,"
to the top storey, where, appropriately enough, the elect held
grave session of " Attic " Greek, reading Euripides to the
melodious melancholy beneath of Chopin's waltzes.
With Mr. Mackie as teacher of English, that Cinderella of
the school course came to something like its own. Following
the lead of Bain, he held there was no real barrier to the making
of the native tongue as thorough an instrument of intellectual
discipline as the reverend, hoary classics. In his hands,
accordingly, Bain's Grammar became as formidable a weapon
as was ever " Ruddiman " or " Melvin " to the disciples of
Latin. Pupils developed an uncanny perception of suspended
nominatives, split infinitives, and mixed metaphors ; they
delighted , to flesh their maiden swords on all and sundry,
plaguing even their happy-go-lucky fathers, much in the way
that Socrates' young followers of old had plagued their com-
fortable sires. That was the discipline of grammar, and in
xviii ALEXANDER MACKIE
the capable hands of Mr. Mackie it became something of what
Bain claimed it to be, an exact science.
In the study of literature, the same searching thoroughness
was manifest. Following again his own master's precepts, as
instilled and elaborated in his " Rhetoric and Composition,"
Mr. Mackie taught his pupils to analyse and compare the
various arts and figures which went to make up an author's
style. He did more : he himself edited two of Macaulay's
essays " Milton " and " Warren Hastings " to illustrate these
same laws of rhetoric ; and so kept ever before his pupils'
eyes models of the critical analysis of style he wished them
In such a method, clearly, no slipshod work was to be
tolerated. Nor did the method of analysis explain away the
rainbow of style. Rather it gave a new meaning and beauty
to that rainbow, and at the same time enabled the pupil to
justify the faith that was in her. Loose, vague talk on the
beauties of an author's style was not permitted. " Padding "
was an abomination. You had to give chapter and verse for
your eulogy. For rhapsodies, whether on Tennyson or Keats,
you were held to strict account. With a stodgy teacher the
method might have become something of a weariness. Mr.
Mackie's voice and enthusiasm were themselves an inspiration.
The girls learned to think, observe, and reason, and the lesson-
hour flew on wings. Delightfully discursive, he mingled the
pleasant with the useful. He made the authors the intimate
friends of his pupils, so that when, in after years, these visited
the Lake district in England, it seemed like coming to some
very familiar spot ; and, when a merry maiden married, she
was sure to receive from her beloved Head Master an appro-
priate gift of books, with some such counsel:
"Forget not that with home and love it fares
The better, when the soul can roam apart
In fields of old Romance, where lofty thought
And wisdom are in subtlest diction wrought."
But, indeed, with English only in recent years taken seriously
as a class subject, Mr. Mackie's eminence as a teacher of it
is challenged by few. As a Head Master he invites comparison
with other Heads. Where does he stand in that comparison ?
What distinctive merits had he here?
From amongst the many qualities which went to make up
the sum total of Mr. Mackie's personality as a Head Master, the
one that strikes us most now, in retrospect, was his splendid
urbanity. You never saw him ruffled, or taken aback. He had
gauged his material the most elusive, the most mercurial and
in dealing with it he cultivated a large tolerance and equanimity.
In this spirit he met the ups and downs of the day's teaching.
It was no use getting flustered or depressed. One must strike
a mean, preferably a happy one. One must be philosophical,
he would say to impetuous youth burning with a sense of
injustice ; one must compromise. For practical success in the
affairs of life, especially in dealing with human nature, Horace's
" golden moderation " is still the sure motto, and undoubtedly
it was the keynote to Alexander Mackie's success as a school-
Not but that he could use the " big bow-wow " on occa-
sion, and with startling effect. The eye lightened, the voice
thundered, the class melted. That was " Ercles' vein," however,
and only for rare use. Usually sarcasm sufficed, or the well-
known quizzical glance ; while, in the way of " lines," the repeti-
tion of some purple patch of poetry made a pleasure of a
penance, and many a youthful offender rejoiced to appear
before the Head, and "bury the Great Duke with an empire's
Teachers, on the whole, tend to become abnormal in
manner. Bitter experience drives them to hedge themselves
with tricks and mannerisms. In private life they may regain
the normal, but in school they are clothed with eccentricity.
It is inexpedient for them to express themselves with the
xx ALEXANDER MACKIE
artlessness of the young giant, who, badgered the livelong day
by a host of whipper-snappers, at last, like Othello, " perplex'd
in the extreme," lifted up his voice in a woeful " Stop those
d d ejaculations ! " A significant pause, a stony stare, a
sarcastically inflected voice, a stilted meiosis, " We are not in a
bear-garden, I presume " these are the teacher's regular and
more effectual stock-in-trade, the shield under which he wins
immunity from " the slings and arrows of outrageous " youth ;
and so the rarest thing to find in a classroom is a gentleman of
simple, conventional manners. Yet such was Mr. Mackie.
Mannerisms and professional tricks he had none. His bluff,
breezy manner swept the pupils along. Neither with them
nor the members of his staff did he affect aloofness. In
school, as out of it, he was the same debonair gentleman. His
manner was entirely natural, simple, good-humoured, and both
by pupils and teachers he was accordingly respected and loved.
To the pupils, indeed, as the years went on, his manner became
increasingly paternal, and one can appreciate it best by recalling
the incident of a certain golden-haired cherub now a staid
matron who once, when the Head was descending stairs from
a class, sprang right on his astonished shoulders, and clasped
him round the neck, with these ingenuous words, " Oh, Mr.
Efficiency was everywhere. You could not better it in a
public school. The staff received their time-table the day
before the session began, and thereafter, within their own
bounds, they had a free hand. There was no anxious shep-
herding of the teachers. You knew your work, and were
trusted to do it.
The worth of the education given by such a school was put
to the proof in extramural examination with complete success.
The results, indeed, achieved in the University Local Examina-
tions were sometimes phenomenal, as when one pupil made 100
per cent, three years running! But, after all, the Locals were
light events compared with the University Preliminary and
Bursary Competition Examinations, and it was the success of
pupils in these, and in the University itself, that established
the reputation of Albyn Place School as an intellectual
seminary. Not that Mr. Mackie made any extravagant claims
for the school, or allowed himself to be dazzled by the successes
of brilliant pupils at college into turning his school into the
approved University cram-shop. Over and over again, on
Prize Day, when speaking with pleasure of the academic
laurels won by former pupils, whether in classics or English,
he soberly said these successes proved that, when they got the
right type of student, able and diligent, they could furnish them
forth for the University just as well as other more pretentious
schools, but that still the main purpose of his school was to
provide a liberal education for girls who had no ulterior goal in
learning, and this, regardless of all the meretricious attractions
of outside examinations. Less he could not have said, and,
when one thinks of some of the students he sent straight to
Aberdeen University, some of the most brilliant women
graduates in classics or English that have ever passed through
King's College, he might well have said more.
But if, after all, the University receives only an elect few
from our schools, whether of boys or of girls, what of the
others ? Have we no means of judging the influence of school
life on them in after years? It is a notorious fact that the
English public schools, excellent as a training-ground for
character, are singularly devoid of intellectual stimulus, so that
still less in after-school days need one look to them for the
fostering of their old pupils' interest in books. But even in
our own secondary schools for boys in Scotland, despite, or,
perhaps, as the result of the severe intellectual treadmill we
endure there, we find our P.P. clubs containing every variety
of section football, cricket, hockey, tennis, billiards, bridge
except the one which would be the legitimate offspring of the
xxii ALEXANDER MACKIE
school education proper, the literary. The dramatic and
the orchestral are the nearest approaches our F.P. clubs venture
to the muses. Literature itself is verboten.
Nor is it only the schools that are at fault. A course of
the orthodox halls of learning seems to make wonderfully for
jejuneness of mind in our academic dons. The questing spirit
seems to evaporate, whether as the result of endless examina-
tions, or an Ecclesiastes' sense of the vanity of it all, and we
have that strangely ironical situation, the graduate, newly
capped, leading classic of his year, gathering all his notebooks
in his landlady's backyard, and making of them one huge
bonfire! The perennial lovers of literature and learning who
come from the University are few. We must seek them
rather among the unacademic, those who have never known
satiety of learning, infinite weariness of lectures and examina-
tions, and strange as it may seem, we find these in the literary
sections of the F.P. Clubs of Girls' Schools.
Certainly, in Aberdeen these many years, one of the few
flourishing literary societies attached to a professed seat of
education we make no mention of freelance literary clubs,
where kindred spirits naturally assemble has been the Albyn
Place School F.P. Club ; and the existence of this Club we con-
sider the best testimony to the system of education established
and maintained in his school by Mr. Mackie. The Club was
the outcome of a spontaneous desire on the part of former
pupils, most of whom had never had any connection with the
University, and many of whom were married, to keep up the
study of English literature, which they had begun under such
happy auspices in school days ; and, as such, it testified to the
genuine interest in literature aroused in them by their master,
as well as to the immunity they had enjoyed from surfeit of
examinations. Year after year this Club has gone through
a systematic syllabus of study. Sometimes a single author
was studied, from the standpoints of life, letters, and one
or two characteristic works, sometimes a couple of plays of
Shakespeare were treated, when parts were allocated, the plays
read through at the sessional meetings, and papers given by
members of the Club, dealing with the characters and themes
of the plays. Thus, at the end of the winter, this Philomath
could feel it had accomplished a definite piece of work.
Conducting the affairs of their society themselves, the F.P.'s
could, of course, always rely on Mr. Mackie as mentor. It
was he who kept them in conservative paths. With so many
great books, certified masterpieces, ever-green, ever-refreshing,
what need to stray away towards works that enjoyed, it might
be, but a passing fame? The Albyn Place School F.P. Club
is, to our mind, the finest tribute to the sanity and intellectual
vitality of the school's system of education.
The pupils rejoiced in any honour conferred on their Head.
They knew him to be a force to be reckoned with outside his
own classrooms, and thought his place on the committee of
the city Public Library his rightful due ; but they were
especially proud when he was appointed examiner in English
for the University. The strength of the sentiment which
gradually gathered round the school was seen on the occasion
of Mr. Mackie's attaining his majority as Principal, when he
received from pupils past and present a handsome American
roll-top desk and a silver service. At the same time Miss
Marshall, so long his faithful coadjutor, was presented with a
lamp and a number of books. The presentation was made by
the Rev. Dr. Danson, who, in humorous fashion, declared the
education given in the school to be such as might alarm any
parent who had to speak in public. On Sunday, when he was
doing his very best to be impressive, he knew his daughters
were on the outlook for the " mis-related participle," and his
lunch was frequently spoiled by his being told, when he thought
he had been particularly brilliant, that there was a want of
connection, or that there was some mixture of figures of speech,
xxiv ALEXANDER MACKIE
or that the metaphor did not last quite long enough to be
effective and then he said, " Bless the name of Mr. Mackie."
But far more than intellectual guidance was the guidance of
character, and there, he thought, the pupils of Albyn Place
School would take rank with the very best in the land. Mr.
Mackie had led the whole of the North of Scotland in intel-
lectual results, but the other results, the speaker dared say,
would not be known till the revelation of the Great Day. Dr.
Danson paid a fitting tribute also to Mrs. Mackie, to whom
her husband owed the charming influence of domestic happiness.
In a reminiscent reply, Mr. Mackie remarked on the changeful
panorama of human life which unfolded in school, year after
year, as the young pupil of five or six years wrought her way
gradually up the ladder of the school, till she reached the
happy day when she put up her hair. Already history was
repeating itself, and he was teaching children's children. He
found an element of pathos in it, and could not help appro-
priating to himself that stanza of Tennyson:
" Fresh as the first beam glittering on a sail,
That brings our friends up from the underworld,
Sad as the last which reddens over one
That sinks with all we love below the verge ;
So sad, so fresh, the days that are no more."
Altogether, it was a red-letter day in the history of the school,
as well as in the career of the Principal.
Not that there was any standing still, or lying back on the
oars. At Prize Day, that annual stocktaking of schools, the
Head made it clear he regarded his curriculum, excellent as it
was, not as a sofa, but a ladder. For long he pondered the
question of opening his school to Departmental Inspection.
It meant probably a curtailment of personal liberty, a certain
initial expenditure, while it opened up larger fields for his
pupils. The need of providing entrance for his students to the
Domestic Science School determined him finally, and in 191 1
the Albyn Place School was declared under Government
Inspection. It meant the setting up and equipping of a Science
Laboratory, and various architectural alterations. But all this
was faced ungrudgingly, in the full hope and belief that it
would make for the increased usefulness of the school. Pity
only was that he who sanctioned the changes should not have
lived long enough to see his hopes fully materialize.
The motto of the Albyn Place School, which was chosen
for it by Mr. Mackie's lifelong friend, Mr. W. Keith Leask,
was Vigor et Juventas, and the Principal of the school was its
living embodiment. To teach, as well as lead, in such a school,
might have been enough, one would have thought, to occupy
the man's whole energy. But it was far from doing so, and
his activity had many other phases.
An ardent lover of nature, and a keen angler, he was always
ready, when occasion offered, to doff his professional garb, and
don the tweeds of the fisher. Never was there a more enthusi-
astic votary of the rod. He knew every stream and rill of the
North, was expert alike with worm or fly, and, in the quest of
his sport, enjoyed equally the silence of the river pool, or the
" blown seas and stormy showers "of Cape Wrath.
Like most seasoned anglers, he met with some strange
adventures in the practice of his art, as when he passed a night
on an islet in mid-stream, perched upon the branch of a tree,
with the flood, which had descended suddenly, all round him.
Aught pertaining to the gentle art was of interest to him,
and it is questionable if, in certain moods, Herbert Spencer
did not appeal to him more as an angler than as a philosopher !
Of his art he wrote copiously, whether in " The Aberdeen
Free Press " or " The Scottish Field," and with a happy freedom
from technicality, and a frank joy in open-air life, which made
whatever he wrote a pleasure to read, even when it was a
practical treatise such as that standard work on its subject,
" The Art of Worm Fishing." He had collected many of these
xxvi ALEXANDER MACKIE
fugitive pieces for a volume, " By Flood and Field," which
would have vindicated for him the claim to be considered the
Scottish Walton. But even the few pieces which we have
culled, almost at random, from the riches of that volume, and
the chapter in " Worm Fishing " entitled " A Hill Burn," would
suffice to show that angling meant for Alexander Mackie far
more than the capture of fish. It was for him a never- failing
" open sesame " to the beauties and joys of nature. None could
understand better than he the truth of Burns's words :
" The Muse, nae Poet ever fand her,
Till by himsel he learn'd to wander,
Adown some trottin burn's meander,
An' no think lang."
Such poetic mood in Alexander Mackie's case, it is true, was
expressed as often in prose as in verse, but the poetic quality
was there. The joie de vivre, the pleasure in the simple sights
and sounds of nature the springing flowers by the river bank,
the carolling birds, the brawling brook all this was present
to him, though the basket might be empty. This was where
he differed from the phlegmatic flogger of rivers. In his
sojourning by the green pastures and still waters he felt that
healing-power of nature whereof the poets have written, and
it inspired him, too, albeit in lowlier wise, with an emotion
afterwards remembered in tranquillity.
So was it with his other pastime of gardening it gave him
health, joy, the outdoor life he loved, contact with the good
brown earth, while ever he found some fresh point of com-
munion with the poets. Both nature and nurture made
Alexander Mackie a gardener. Little wonder, then, that in
school session or vacation he spent his spare hours so zealously,
sowing and planting, delving and pruning. He knew every
flower and tree on his way to school, and nothing delighted
pupils so much of a morning as to walk with the Head
down Fountainhall Road and Albyn Place, and hear him
expatiate on tree and shrub and flower. One sees him yet,
with his " glorious morning face," compact of body, stepping
along with short, brisk steps, the silver-headed stick swinging
in his hand, a maid or two at his side lending rapt ear to his
sermonette on the tares in the Queen's Cross Church precinct
the dandelions, to wit or to his remarks on some floral
or arboreous vagary in the Queen's Terrace gardens. For
Nature he had the seeing eye and understanding heart, out of
the fullness of which he could write his rhapsody on Spring,
" From Bud to Leaf," or moralize, in something of the melan-
choly Jacques' vein, on " The Tree Artistic and the Tree
Commercial " ; or, bringing to bear his own penetrating and
sincere observation of nature, write such a work of intimate
and nice interpretation as " Nature Knowledge in Modern
Poetry," a work to which it was pleasant to see complimentary
reference made, the other month, in a leading review in " The
But, with the fall of the leaf, and the shortening day, the
rod and the spade were laid aside for a season, and the book-
lover ensconced himself in his study. In the Aberdeen
Philosophical Society the disciple of Bain found congenial
companionship. At one time president, he was latterly secre-
tary, and it was probably through him that the scope of the
Society's papers widened, so as to take in lectures on many sub-
jects, not primarily philosophical. Here, too, perhaps, as in
education, he read the signs of the times, and saw a generation
growing up which knew not " Logic," and which, like Brutus
of old, was to confess philosophy a cold mistress. That he did
wisely no one can gainsay. Two notable contributions of his
own, " The Homeric Simile in Modern Poetry " and " The
Ludicrous in Burns," had the honour of being included in the
Society's l( Transactions."
As a frequent writer of special articles in the daily press, he
had a distinct outlet for his literary gifts. Of fishing, and
xxviii ALEXANDER MACKIE
gardening, and the moods of nature associated with these, he
wrote, as already noted, abundantly ; but he was equally happy
in catching the mood of a great occasion, whether it was
the opening of a new church, the visit of a famous preacher,
or the epic Quatercentenary celebrations of our Northern
University. His interest in education found scope in his many
notable reviews of educational works, while the genuine
bibliophile came out in his frank delight at the discovery of
some " new " Beattie letters, which he afterwards published in
the form of a brochure. Alike in the number and the nature
of his interests, he reminded one often of Andrew Lang.
Like most practical teachers, Mr. Mackie wrote little on
the theory of his calling. It was sufficient to attain a working
creed. That he was profoundly interested in the theoretical
aspect of his vocation was to be seen in his bold bid for the
Chair of Education in St. Andrews, when it became vacant
in 1902 ; but his was too rich and human a personality to be
punished by a chair, and a sigh of relief went up from pupils,
past and present, when they realized their school was still to be
" Mackie's School." Among his manuscripts we have come
across only one paper bearing distinctly on education,
" Parental influence in education is it on the decline ? " this
amid a multitude of papers on literary topics and the inference
is, that, as a schoolmaster, he had worked out a practical faith,
and held by it without fear or doubt. Of what that faith
consisted is seen admirably in the many reviews of educa-
tional works he wrote to the daily press. It is from his obiter
dicta in these reviews we gather explicitly what otherwise we
could see to be the implicit faith of the practical teacher.
Very interesting is it to find him deploring in those ante-bellum
days the tendency of our nation to become a slavish imitator of
German educational methods and systems. He even deprecated
too much deferring to English modes, as opposed to our own
national idiosyncrasies. As was to be expected, he was staunch
in upholding the worth and discipline of a course in English
Language and Literature, and, while frankly acknowledging
the incontestable merits of a classical education, he was wishful
to reserve it for those really capable of benefiting by it. It is
all very sane, very sober, very patriotic, what he says, and
entirely of a piece with his own living practice.
But his direct contribution to the literature of education was
not in theory so much as in actual manuals for use in school.
Such were his editions, already mentioned, of Macaulay's
" Milton " and " Warren Hastings," such, too, his " Marmion,"
and such again, in most notable wise, was his " Aberdeenshire,"
in the " Cambridge County Geographies." In that volume his
unique knowledge of his native shire, as well as his charming
literary style, found full and fitting expression. It was a
masterpiece of its kind, and " Banffshire," in the same series,
on which he was busy at the time of his death, would have been
its worthy peer.
As the freelance journalist, Mr. Mackie chose his theme
and wrote of it without effort. He struck a rich vein in the
series of articles he wrote for " The Scottish Field " on the
Secondary Schools of Scotland, but, indeed, he touched nothing
that he did not adorn. He was a master of the mot juste,
and had a rich rotundity of diction, while his literary allusive-
ness gave charm to the most ordinary theme. It was not merely
that he was ready with apt quotation yet what could be neater,
for instance, than the quotation, at the beginning of " The Art
of Worm Fishing," taken from " Richard II," " Let's talk of
worms " ? but, far more subtle and elusive, he could make his
writing convey, by some deft word or phrase, the aroma of the
masters of literature.
Making no claim to be a poet, he yet wrote much occasional
verse that "was excellent, and as a sonneteer he paid many a
generous tribute to the men of mark he had numbered among
his friends. He had a Horatian sense of the fitness of things,
xxx ALEXANDER MACKIE
and evidently felt the sonnet to be the correct measure of his
poetic strength. Certainly, in serious vein, it was his favourite
milieu of expression. Alfred Austin's blundering verse during
the Boer War :
" From English hamlet, Irish hill,
Welsh hearths, and Scottish byres,
They throng to show that they are still
Sons worthy of their sires"
drew some caustic verses from Alexander Mackie :
"The English bacon holds the field,
'Tis fed in sties ; who e'er appealed
To such as fitting homes to shield
Their cultured squires ?
That honour now a bard has sealed
On Scottish byres."
But, as a rule, his verses, when not blithely piscatorial, are
touched with tender regret, and a sense of the tears of things.
His essays in the vernacular, both prose and verse, are racy
of the soil, and approve him, what his lecturing affirmed him
to be, a master of the Doric.
His distinguished ability as a writer, as well as his sound
literary judgment, met with suitable recognition when the idea
of a University Review was mooted in the General Council
of his Alma Mater. All eyes turned to Alexander Mackie as
the right man for Convener of the Editorial Sub-Committee,
and nobly he filled the post till his death.
Nor did readiness as a writer retard in his case readiness
as a public speaker. His fertility in literary quotation, linked
to a rich vein of humour and a delightful bonhomie of manner,
won him acknowledgment as one of the post-prandial orators of
Bon-Accord. His speech at the " Hamewith " dinner to
Charles Murray was a memorable triumph in a field partic-
ularly congenial to him ; while at the St Andrew's Dinners,
where, on more than one occasion, he had the toast of " Provost
Davidson and the Heroes of Harlaw," his speeches were
admirable alike for the resume he gave of the historical issues,
and the grace of imagination with which he indicated the fine
materials lying ready to kindle at the touch of the novelist
materials which the Great Wizard himself had only relinquished
in favour of " The Fair Maid of Perth." An excellent example
of his blending of humour with sentiment was afforded on the
occasion of the dinner given by the Grammar School P.P. Club
in honour of the veteran drawing master, Mr. Samuel Pope. In
giving that toast Mr. Mackie was able to sing the praises of his
own pastimes, fishing and gardening, which he did con amore ;
but very adroit was the skill with which he made the Pope of
literature yield homage to the Pope of art, as when he quoted
the lines from " Solitude " :
" Happy the man, whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.
Blest, who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years, slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,
Sound sleep by night."
And again, while humorously claiming Samuel as a much
bigger man than Alexander, both in body and spirit, he credited
the latter with good common sense on the former's great craft
of penmanship :
"True ease in writing comes from art, not chance,
As they move easiest who have learned to dance."
But it was as a popular lecturer that Alexander Mackie
attained his chief fame as a public speaker. To literary
societies and clubs he had long been familiar for his fine gifts
of exposition, ranging with fine catholicity of taste from " The
Vicar of Wakefield " and Jane Austen to " The Ring and the
xxxii ALEXANDER MACKIE
Book " and Thomas Hardy. But when he stepped forth as a
lecturer on the " braid Scots," especially as found in Dr. William
Alexander's " Johnny Gibb of Gushetneuk," he quickly won a
fame far more than local. In him there was a most happy
blend of the cultured scholar and the gifted elocutionist, so
that his lecture was a literary treat as well as an elocutionary
tour de force. In his prefatory remarks he would discuss the
literary merits of Dr. Alexander's masterpiece, drawing com-
parisons with other notable works or characters of the same
genre, and then he would proceed to illustrate his remarks with
readings from the book itself. To the fifteenth edition of the
book he wrote an admirable preface, comprising most of what
he gave as introduction to his lecture, while a volume of " Read-
ings in Modern Scots " was a sort of supplement to his Doric
activities. Indeed, it is not without a sense of irony one reads
the gibe of that per fervid Scot, Mr. J. M. Bulloch, when
jeering at an Anglified Aberdeen " Albyn Place English "
remembering all that an Albyn Place schoolmaster did for
the revival of our ancient " Lallan' tongue."
Up and down the countryside, then, Mr. Mackie gave his
lecture, to literary clubs, guilds, and mutual improvement societies
innumerable ; and his school pupils grew familiar with the great
fur coat hanging on the hall-stand the disciple of Bain had
inherited the master's mantle literally as well as spiritually
which told them the Head would be off again that evening to
some rural hall to deliver his lecture. But still the cry came
from further afield, till in 1913 the appeal came from across
the ocean, " Come over into Canada and delight us." After
some hesitation Mr. Mackie made arrangements for the conduct
of the school in his absence, and set off across the Atlantic, to
discourse to brother Scots in exile on Meg Raffan the henwife,
the loves of Tam Meerison and Jinse Deans, and Mrs. Birse
of Clinkstyle and her " kitchie kyaaks." New York, Niagara,
Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal he visited ; right into the heart
of the Rockies he toured, spending his last Christmas but one
in the other Banff, and sending thence his Christmas greetings
to the family party gathered at home. His pen was busy all
the time, describing his voyage, St. Andrew's Day in New York,
a visit to the Falls, an endeavour to hear " the Sky Pilot " in
his own church, the life, and the motley civilization which
peoples the wide spaces of Canada.
The pace may have been too severe, the sharpness of the
cold, especially after coming out of heated halls, may nave
told on him ; at anyrate, he had not long been welcomed back
to his native country, when unpleasant symptoms of throat
trouble manifested themselves, and, to the amazement of all
who knew him, Alexander Mackie was reported ill!
To one who all his life had enjoyed the most robust health,
who had been active and accustomed to be out of doors, illness,
when it came, must have come with a terrible shock. That this
man, seemingly in the plenitude of his vigour, should be struck
down with illness, seemed incredible. But it was so, and, strive
as he might, the malady overpowered him. The spirit, however,
was still the same alert, buoyant, greeting the unseen with a
cheer, and he fought gamely to the last. For long he continued
to come to school, though he never attempted to teach. He
moved to and fro in the familiar haunts, with that pathetic
wistfulness of human nature when out of joint, seeking, as it
were, by make-believe and pursuit of the old accustomed rounds
of duty, to regain its wonted poise. But the time came when
he had to forgo even that.
Once we met him on the hill, with its outlook over our
fair city, the city of silver-gleaming spires. While the ruddy
hue and sturdy gait were the same, we grieved to note the
failure in the voice, that voice with its rich harmonics, which,
in days gone by, we had so oft admired, as it vibrated through
the lecture-hall, descanting on the Aberdeenshire Doric and
the immortal "Johnny." But, as we walked down the hill
xxxiv ALEXANDER MACKIE
together, his words had the true optimistic ring. Personally he
must just go easy for a bit. The War had begun, and none of
us knew yet how things were to be affected. Education he
reckoned on being hit badly. This 1915 would be a poor
vintage educationally, but we should pull through.
An English mistress had been engaged at the beginning of
the session, to do Mr. Mackie's teaching; and staff and pupils,
with the shadow of their Head's illness upon them, strove loyally
to uphold the name and prestige of the school. The last day
of the session came, the 25th of June, 1915. There was to be
no formal prize-giving as in former years, such was the Head's
express wish. Let it have quiet close. And so she, who all
those months had borne so faithfully the burden of her father's
work, came home, to show the kindly gift she had received from
affectionate pupils, and tell the glad news that the session
was finished, and the school closed for the vacation. The
tired fighter heard with a smile and slept. It was indeed
A former pupil has remarked, with true insight, on Mr.
Mackie's dislike of the pageantry of Enoch Arden's funeral ;
and well it was that his own obsequies were carried out so
simply and quietly, just as he would have wished. The mortal
part of him was followed by a concourse of mourners in the
bright sunshine of a June afternoon, down the broad open way,
past smiling gardens and the wayside bloom of yellow broom,
the way of flowers he ever loved, to the fairest-seeming,
certainly the fairest-named of all our city's cemeteries Spring-
bank. There we left him, " our master, famous, calm, and
Grief was widespread in the North at the death of Mr.
Mackie, and many a kindly tribute was paid by friends and
admirers far from Aberdeen. Especially was regret expressed
that he who had been such a distinguished son of our Northern
University, so versatile and withal so devoted to his Alma
Mater, should have failed to be laureated by her. It was just
to such men as he and Gavin Greig, the much-toiling school-
masters who gave of their dear- won leisure to literary and
learned pursuits, that an honorary doctorate would have been
a fair guerdon, and it did not come. Doubtless the University
meant to honour him ; they would do it soon, they would think
on't. Meanwhile he died.
But Alexander Mackie did not gloom. His was that fine
equipoise of spirit which does not chafe at lack of worldly
glory, and the piece of work to which he clung to the last was
the "Review" in whose welfare he was so bound up. Mr. Keith
Leask has shown him, in vivid phrase, even when the fell
clutches of his malady were on him, struggling to decipher
illegible contributors. The man, in sickness as in health, was
clear-purposed, single-aimed :
" What are we set on earth for ? Say, to toil ;
Nor seek to leave thy tending of the vines
For all the heat o' the day, till it declines,
And Death's mild curfew shall from work assoil.
God did anoint thee with His odorous oil,
To wrestle, not to reign."
But sure of the abiding affection of troops of friends, what
need had such a man of external honour? There are those who
knew him in school and college days who may speak of him
familiarly as " Sandy Mackie " ; there is one to whom he will
ever be " Gushets " ; but, for the multitude of those who knew
him in connection with his own school, to recall a great teacher
and a man of most lovable ways, it will ever suffice simply
to speak of " Mr. Mackie."
SUNSET AND SUNRISE
MATTHEW ARNOLD made it a fatal objection to
miracles that they do not happen. No doubt his
argument was sound ; and yet, if we are not to be
very precise in the use of words, they are happening every
day. The daily-repeated glories of sunset and sunrise have,
from their familiarity, lost all trace of the miraculous, and
have passed into the light of common things. All the same,
when viewed with the poetic and not the philosophic eye, they
have a mystery, an awe-inspiring grandeur and sublimity about
them sufficient to justify some such epithet. Our modern
facilities in the use of artificial light and our consequent late
hours cut us off, especially in the summer months, from appre-
ciating the beauties of the dawn. The roysterer who does not
go home till morning has his compensations. The invalid who
suffers from insomnia may see, but is hardly in a mood to
sympathise, and the night watchman, going his rounds, is as
a rule too prosaic in mental texture to rise to the height of
this sublime mystery. We have trudged through the semi-
darkness of a midsummer night to hail the sun's uprising on
Lochnagar ; we have seen the miracle evolve as we were
whirled through France in a Continental train ; and we have
in Norwegian waters lounged on the deck of the steamer till
the new day broke. It is impressive always and everywhere ;
but, after all,- it carries most effect when it and you are alone
When the rivers are so low and clear that no angler, how-
2 ALEXANDER MACKIE
ever skilful, can hope to make a basket at ordinary hours, one
has to avoid the brighter part of the day, and under cover of
the dusk, when the fish are less acute in vision and somewhat
off their guard, a successful catch may be made. Moreover,
the angler may at the same time feast his soul with phenomena
of nature not ordinarily seen. On the rare days one in ten
when all the circumstances are favourable, he will be more
than rewarded for the temporary disturbance of his usual
routine of slumber.
You make a start in the evening when the sun is low in the
red north-west, and, being privileged by a generous friend,
get your boat out into the river, then row silently to the head
of your favourite pool. The water is smooth as glass ; the
trout are not yet on the rise, and, while you whistle for a
breeze, you have time to look round and make note of what
is passing in the upper air. Forces that gave no sign during
broad day are now coming into activity. The rush of the river
over the waterfall, some five hundred yards below, that was
quite unheard and apparently noiseless in the stir of the active
life of day, is now distinctly resonant in the placid evening air.
A peacock at the manor-house puts up his nightly screaming
prayer for rain ; a belated bumble-bee hums drowsily on his
homeward way. Two water-pipers, their bright plumage lit
up by the sunset glow, fly high overhead, sounding their shrill
whistle. A wild duck leads forth warily from the sedges her
little brood, sadly thinned since last week when you saw them
first ; for, with the advent of August, duck shooting becomes
legal, and the guns have been busy. They are even now at
work, and the echoes are wakened by a sudden report farther
up the river. The water-rails bob in and out amongst the
reeds and long grasses of the bank, uttering their harsh and
angry croaks of alarm as they detect your unwelcome presence.
A water-vole plumps off the bank and takes an oblique course
across the stream, head in air, and sniffing suspiciously as he
SUNSET AND SUNRISE 3
becomes aware of interlopers in his haunts. Secure from
attack all day, lying perdu under the protecting thick herbage
of the water edge, they issue forth on their nightly prowl.
Meantime little breezes begin to shiver on the surface, and
the plump-plump and oily bubble of trout, rising in a way
that means business, withdraw your attention to your rod,
which you ply with care, keeping your flies on the move. At
first it is rather still and not dark enough, and you have the
usual proportion of misses ; these, however, only add zest to
the sport, and you bide your time. Some accidents, too ; a
heavy fish just takes your fly as you are in the act of making
a fresh cast, and snips off your point hook ; then one head-
strong fellow gets under the boat, where he has no business
to be, and makes complications ; another rushes for the islet
of weeds ranunculus aquatilis, white in flower with a shrewd
guess that that way safety lies. Worst of all is when a lively
fish takes a dropper fly, and, trailing the tail of the cast line
behind him, makes a ravelled skein of it, which no art can
disentangle in the dark an argument for using but one fly
at such a time. The only thing to be done in this case is to
put the problem aside for solution in daylight and substitute a
fresh cast. It is now past ten you heard it strike on the
village clock and, there being much cloud, it is well-nigh
dark. The fringe of trees on the left bank shows black
between you and the lighter north. On the right is pasture
grass, amongst which a presumably tuberculous ox keeps up
at intervals his consumptive and very human cough. The
swallows have ceased to compete with the denizens of the
river for the swarms of ephemerae, but their place is taken by
numerous bats, which show a determination to inspect the
point of your rod, and thereby cause you no end of annoyance.
As the night deepens, what little breeze you had dies
away, the clouds dissipate as if at the stroke of a magician's
wand, and a full moon, low in the sky and of an ampler round
4 ALEXANDER MACKIE
than usual, pours her beams upon the shimmering water a
perfect illustration of Wordsworth's word-picture :
" The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare."
The trout continue to rise, and you have an occasional addi-
tion to your basket, but they show a disinclination to be
deceived. It is evident that, from their coign of vantage and
with your flies between them and the moon, they are able to
distinguish the artificial and the real. You are wise, there-
fore, to rest on your oars for a time, and give yourself up to
contemplation of the beauties of the night and woo the
soft influence of the hour. Without some resource of this
sort you would be dismal, and would be sure to beat a retreat
homewards ; but the genuine angler has thoughts beyond mere
What are the charms of the pastime? There are those
whose only notion of the sport is Dr. Johnson's definition
" A fool at one end of a rod and a worm at the other."
Votaries of cricket and golf laugh it to scorn as slow and
making too many demands on patience. No doubt the angler
is happiest when his basket is full, as the golfer is presumably
in his best humour when he scores well ; but that is not the
whole case. The charm of it is indescribable and incom-
municable ; to be understood, it must be felt. Apart from the
opportunities it affords for observation and the healthful
exercise in the open air which it has in common with other
sports, its greatest fascination lies in the glorious uncertainty
of every moment. You never know what the next minute will
produce ; when things are at their very worst, you may be on
the point of hooking a record fish. Until he is safe in your
landing-net, however, the uncertainty remains, and adds to that
exhilaration of feeling which is unintelligible to the non-
angler. To lose your night's rest and forgo your comfortable
SUNSET AND SUNRISE 5
bed, to stand in an open boat for hours in the dark, seems
idiotic to those who do not sympathise. Cricket must seem
equally futile to the uninitiated. Happily, we are not all
constituted alike ; but, as De Quincey put it, " Not to
sympathise is not to understand."
Slowly the moving moon climbs up the sky, until the land-
scape stands out with a clearness and distinctness little short
of broad daylight. In the absence of a breeze, the bright-
ness is fatal to your success, and after midnight you secure
little or nothing, and might as well be in bed, only you await
the turn of events. A chill dew begins to fall, and you are
fain to keep the oars going, and thus combat the period of
minimum temperature. At two comes a faint lightening in
the north-east, a greyish tint that heralds the approaching
dawn and gradually pales the ineffectual fires of the satellite.
The birds begin to twitter in the trees at first a mere tweet-
tweet, by and by a more extended note ; but the time of the
singing of birds is gone, and the concert of April and May
is played out. The sweet coo-coo-coo of the ringdove is in
perfect harmony with the placid morning. Less so the more
defiant crowing of the cocks. They cheerily rouse the
slumbering morn to good purpose, and the challenges are
volleyed from farm-yard to farm-yard, until you hear them
answered by " faintly echoing farms remote." The wild
fowl make for their coverts ; every minute the circle of light
broadens and expands, red and gold begin to fleck the slowly-
sailing clouds, and at four the King of Day, the source and
fount of light, himself appears in person, mounting over the
horizon with a jubilant rush and once more the miracle is
complete. As you moor your boat and make ready for home,
Tennyson's " Tithonus " rings in your ears :
" And the wild team
Which love thee, yearning for thy yoke, arise,
And shake the darkness from their loosen'd manes,
And beat the twilight into flakes of fire."
THE SILVER DEE
HPHE Spey is swift, the Don is slow,
1 The Deveron strikes a happy mean ;
But north or south, where'er I go,
There's none can match my river-queen,
The silver Dee.
From linn to sea she glides along
O'er granite bed and pebbles grey,
Singing a sweet and endless song,
And changing oft from grave to gay,
The silver Dee.
Among the giant, frowning hills
That link our noble Grampian chain,
She takes her birth and gathers rills
From crystal springs and filtered rain,
The silver Dee.
The golden eagle's wings outspread
Are pictured in her mirror blue ;
The red-deer sees his antlered head,
Tine above tine, reflected true
In silver Dee.
She gambols with Braeriach's feet,
She kisses Ben Macdhui's knee ;
And playmates more, of name unmeet,
She frolics with, in childish glee,
The silver Dee.
THE SILVER DEE
Through wild Braemar her waters glide,
Past Invercauld they make their way ;
Grim Lochnagar looks down with pride,
Balmoral smiles a greeting gay
To silver Dee.
The progeny of mountain-kings,
She hath a lofty, queenly grace ;
And now to kings and queens she sings,
Who love to look upon the face
Of royal Dee.
Mile after mile she broader grows,
For Gairn and Muick their tribute bring;
And rushing Feugh her melted snows
Secretes beneath the warmer wing
Of silver Dee.
To Ballater she comes amain,
And soon Aboyne she passes by;
Though townships give her many a stain,
She keeps a clear and sparkling eye,
The silver Dee.
At last she tastes, by Allenvale,
The brackish waters of the tide ;
Her eyes grow dim, her spirits fail,
And soon the ocean's breakers hide
The silver Dee.
THE SULLEN DON
THEY call me sullen, call me slow,
And slow and sullen moods are mine,
As through the level haughs and low,
1 creep, before I plunge in brine.
Kintore and Thainstone check my pace,
Parkhill, Kinaldie curb my speed,
And when I reach Balgownie's base,
I'm black and grim and dour indeed.
For there I know my race is run,
My earthly course is near its close,
There looms a fate I cannot shun
The doom that greedy seas impose.
I'm sad, reluctant, loth to go,
For Ocean's jaws are open wide,
And Ocean's teeth are white as snow,
And in her maw I needs must hide.
But see me where the brown hills rise
Far away from the salt sea's breath,
I'm swift and bright with sparkling eyes
That know not fear of gloomy death.
THE SULLEN DON
Along my heather banks I course
Or dance with glee from pool to pool ;
I'm full of life and youthful force,
Like playful boys let loose from school.
Corgarff, Allargue and Candacraig
I leave behind in buoyant mood,
I brush Poldullie, Bellabeg,
And many a bridge and many a wood.
I skirt Ben Newe, Culquoich the fair,
Glenkindie, Brux and Alford's meads,
And then with blandest smile repair
To Monymusk and Kemnay's reeds.
The Ernan, Nochty join their threads,
The Deskry, Bucket tribute bring,
The Mossat, Leochel hide their heads
Like birds beneath their mother's wing.
But Urie clouds my spirits gay,
I feel myself more sober grow,
Life's cares their hold upon me lay,
And thus it is, I sullen flow.
F7ROM Cabrach's Buck she sallies forth
And, gathering rills within her bed,
Meanders east, meanders north,
Till in the restless Moray Firth she hides her head.
A sweeter stream, from hill to sea,
You will not find in all this isle ;
She's merry with a modest glee,
And masks her graver moods with coy and sunny smile.
Blackwater, Bogie, Isla deep
Bring each a hearty tribute in,
To feed the growing stream and keep
Her brimming waves above the rocks that lie within.
Then sweeps she wider, full and gay,
Past shining wood and cosy farm,
Where stands thy Milltown, Rothiemay,
A sleeping hamlet, bound in leafy hedgerows warm.
THE DEVERON 11
By Corniehaugh and Mayen's braes
To Marnoch bridge she saunters on,
Shoots the proud arch in haste, but stays
Where springs to view Kinnairdy's keep, its glory gone.
At Forglen's woods she slacks her rein
As loth to leave such beauteous bowers,
Through Eden's meads she sweeps amain,
Flashing a friendly eye on brave Montcoffer's towers.
Then Alvah's narrow gorge she threads,
And slips along the Duke's domain,
Where stately trees bend down their heads,
And, swinging to and fro, beat time to her refrain.
She leaves these coverts, tastes the tide,
And, piercing through the shingly bar,
She comes to where the breakers ride,
And, mixing with the brine, is borne to realms afar.
A SEA-BIRDS' NURSERY
"The myriad shriek of wheeling ocean fowl." Tennyson.
OFTEN had we heard of Fowlsheugh that unique
segment of the Kincardineshire coast, unique on the
eastern sea-board for its vast, conglomerate precipices, its
grand majestic caves and underground galleries, as well as
for its multitudinous populace of sea-birds ; much had we
heard, but not until the other day were we privileged to pay
a long-deferred visit to this most interesting region. It has,
of course, been many times described, but one may be
pardoned for trying once again to put one's first impressions
into words whilst the impression is new and fresh. No
adequate inspection of the ground is possible except from the
sea in a boat, and a small boat, so that perfectly calm weather
is an essential condition of a completely successful expedi-
tion. On the day we chose this condition seemed happily met,
for the sea was smooth and still, and a gentle southerly wind
just ruffled the sea-mirror without waking " the mighty being "
to anything beyond a moderate and soothing heave.
We were three passengers, under the skilful guidance of
a fourth, whose long residence in Stonehaven has familiarised
him with every inch of the way, and who could not be matched
as a cicerone either for accurate knowledge or for enthusiasm
in the oft-repeated quest. Passing from the quiet shelter of
Stonehaven harbour, our trim little craft, propelled by two
brawny oarsmen, crept round the Downie out on the heaving
bosom of the North Sea. Four miles of jagged cliff extend
southward, cut into fantastic shapes by the pounding of the
A SEA-BIRDS' NURSERY 13
easterly gales, grim and solitary islets, bold and sphinx-like
masses, beetling crags, and sheer, sharply-chiselled precipices.
Dunnottar Castle stands midway, and at the extreme end is
the culminating rock of Fowlsheugh, with its myriads of
birds. The whole sea-fringe is an intricate series of gullies
and narrow channels, through which our tiny skiff was deftly
piloted, but in which a stranger would inevitably lose his way.
It is in reality a kind of fairy world that the threading of
these intricate passages discloses, and recalls the tales of adven-
ture that are associated with coral islands in the southern
The caves are many; some large, some small, some wide
and spacious and extending deep under the super-incumbent
land, others narrow and tortuous, and tapering away to
crevices where no boat can penetrate. Originally due to a
geological " fault " in the sandstone conglomerate, the
hollow which makes the caves has been gradually enlarged,
scooped out, and rounded off by the ceaseless action of the
waves. We were able to visit all the series, the Devil's
Kettle, the Devil's Footsteps, the Long Gallery, and others.
The boat steers straight for a yawning mouth, and glides
silently into the open portal. The effect of running into an
underground tunnel, out of the bright sunshine and the wide
expanse of sparkling sea, into the sombre gloom of one of
Nature's own grim dungeons, is decidedly weird. The light
from the entrance is deflected from the glistening side-walls
on to the water, and shows up its beautiful colours, " green as
emerald " and varying shades of exquisite blue. Through
the translucent deeps you can dimly see the brown tangles
clinging to the rocky bottom, and swaying gently in the moving
water. Above is the finely-arched roof, shaped by no earthly
architect, sometimes green and brown and slimy with adhering
algse, sometimes smooth and polished, hard and glossy, the
big rounded pebbles, in all tones of red, densely packed in the
I 4 ALEXANDER MACKIE
hard matrix of sandstone. These occasionally protrude and
look as if they could easily be gouged out like plums from a
cake, but they are solid and immovable.
Ordinary sounds take a new tone under such surroundings.
The echoes of the human voice reverberate up the dark,
unprobed recesses of the caverns ; at intervals comes the far-off
wash of the waves as they splash up some unseen, gravelly
beach ; then you hear the dull, solemn, eerie " boom "of the
swell, as it beats against the perpendicular barrier of solid
rock outside. We glide deeper and deeper into the intricate
mazes of these watery labyrinths. The half-lights glimmer
and gleam, then grow dimmer ; the gloom deepens till we are
in perfect darkness. A back number of the " Free Press " is
crumpled up into an improvised torch, set light to, and flung
blazing on the water surface. Its fierce glare is reflected
from the glistening walls, and gives the water channel an inky
hue. We are now far under the projecting land, and the
thought occurs that perhaps two hundred feet above our heads
the farm-servants are busy singling turnips in the cultivated
fields, unaware of underground visitors. Having gone as far
into the bowels of the earth as the boat can venture, we ship
our oars and pause for a brief space to drink in the solemnity
of this wonderful scene, to feel the unexpressed poetry of a
new experience, and to ponder the marvellous architecture
that formed these great masses of conglomerate in the process
of suns. It is an awe-inspiring sight, and fills one with the
same solemnising thoughts as come from traversing the dim
aisles of some vast cathedral. Then we turn back. Through
the archway of entrance we catch a circumscribed view of the
far sea, with a sun-lit white sail in the middle distance, and
a passing steamer on the horizon edge. Then out from the
gloom, through the gateway again into the grateful sunshine
and the swinging waves, past some outlying island to which
venturous rock-fishers have clambered over wire-rope bridges
A SEA-BIRDS' NURSERY 15
to hang perched like sparrows on housetops, plying their
angling craft. One of these daring adventurers, as our boat
approached his perilous station, was blessed with a vigorous
bite, and striking his long bamboo rod too suddenly and
jerkily, snapped it at the top joint, but in spite of this
untoward accident he held manfully on to the plunging fish,
and no doubt succeeded in landing it safely after we had
The diorama of cliffs is constantly changing. They are
all manner of shapes, perpendicular walls, sheer and straight,
wedge-shaped masses with clean-cut edges, rude bosses bulging
out like vast excrescences, but always with the embedded
pudding-stones firmly cemented in Nature's concrete. Some-
times the big pebbles are split right through the centre like an
almond, sometimes a hollow mould or empty socket is all that
is left to mark their place of pressure. Here and there short
areas of pure sandstone occur, quite devoid of intrusive
pebbles. In the crevices grow scurvy-grass, pink sea-thrift,
and the white catch-fly fluttering in the breeze. Now and again
the baser " dock," a vagrant from the cultivated land above,
gains a precarious footing in a convenient crack, and flourishes
nobly. The caves are, for the most part, wet, with a deep
watery floor that ends at low tide in a scanty beach made of
the re-shaped pebbles that did duty ages before in making the
beaches of the prime ; but one cavern on a higher level is
entirely dry. Here the rock is an intrusive dyke of porphyry.
You clamber over a confused heap of huge porphyritic boulders,
hard as adamant, to find yourself in a spacious chamber, like
some banqueting hall of a manor house of Norman times. It
has a high-embowed roof, but the walls are damp and dripping,
and the floor is irregular. In the dim light of its innermost
recess is a stray dancing midge, frolicking gaily in obscurity,
and not two yards away hangs a spider's web, arrayed in all
its geometric exactitude, ready to make a prey of the winged
16 ALEXANDER MACKIE
mite. Even in these dark dungeons the struggle for life is
strenuous and implacable.
Gradually, as we cruise out and in amongst the waterways,
we round the last headlands and come to the chief haunt of
the sea-birds. At first they were entirely absent, or few, but
as we approach the climax of Fowlsheugh they become more
and more numerous. The cliffs swarm with feathered life.
Guillemots and razorbills, puffins and kittiwakes are here by
thousands ; an occasional cormorant emerges from the crowd ;
a stray jackdaw, probably on the outlook for provender, flits
about the rock-face ; a few rock-pipits and rock-pigeons may
be seen, but the great majority are guillemots, puffins, and
kittiwakes. Every cranny, every ledge, every convenient
hollow is occupied by nests, in which the young birds, now
well fledged and clamorous, find a procreant cradle. The
air is darkened with flying wings going and returning, like bees
on a summer day round a populous hive, apparently in aimless
journeys, but, if we knew all, with distinct purpose and fore-
sight. The guillemots, with white breast and dark neck and
wings, stand erect like miniature penguins, then hurl themselves
from their foothold and flutter heavily out to sea, or plunge
into the swelling tide. Their wings give the impression of
being, in proportion, short for their weight of body, and they
fly with some sense of effort. Their out-stretched black-
webbed feet give a curious outline to these birds as they appear
from the boat below ; they resemble a flying squirrel more than
a bird, and use their expanded feet for steering their course.
The tail is the usual steering apparatus, but the guillemot has
a meagre endowment of tail, and finds its webbed feet a very
good substitute. The puffin is a much better flier ; he is
quicker and easier on the wing, but this quaint, sage-looking,
old-world, ludicrous sea-parrot also uses his legs in flight.
Only, his feet and legs are bright red, not black, and, when the
webbed feet are expanded in mid-air flight, they give a bright
A SEA-BIRDS' NURSERY. 17
note of colour in contrast to the black and white of the
guillemot. The black cormorant is very conspicuous when
he shoots overhead. The walls of the cliff are white with
droppings. The noise of so many clamorous tongues is deafen-
ing ; it rises and falls as the breeze carries it towards us or
away from us. A pistol shot from a passing boat fills the
air with fluttering wings and crescendo of screaming. The
" peep-peep "of the young birds on their narrow ledges mingles
with the shriller cries of the parents. A chorus from 100,000
raucous throats, not moving in unison but each exerted to its
limit, makes a babel indescribable. The guillemots settle down,
bowing gracefully to us or to each other as they stand erect on
their perches ; a puffin takes a sudden leap, forges out to sea
for a breather, and then returns to his ledge as if from mere
spontaneity of energy and overflowing vital force. Dead birds
float past the rocking boat an index of the inevitable wastage
that nature so readily sanctions. A mother-bird soars in with
a glistening sand-eel in her beak. Some detached companies
are swimming daintily on the heaving sea, now up on the crest,
now down in the trough of the wave.
The great height of the cliff has the effect of diminishing
the size of the birds. They seem strangely tiny as they stand
on the abutting edges of the rock. No nests are ever placed
on an accessible ledge. They are always well out of human
reach. The result is that the nestlings are invisible from the
boat level ; they squat on the lowest dip of the hollow, and
only now and again do they raise their heads to look over the
precipice edge and scan the world below. The toll that the
sea-life pays to feed such a multitudinous army of old and
young must figure out to tons of provender daily. Any
approximation to the number of nestlings reared every season
in this lofty and exposed rock-face is difficult to reach, but
even exact figures would give a poor notion of the vast and
ceaseless activities that operate here from April to the end
i 8 ALEXANDER MACKIE
of July. By the beginning of August the young birds are
strong on the wing and a general exodus takes place. A hush
of peace falls upon Fowlsheugh, and the wild waves sing
unaccompanied by the clamour of sea-birds' tongues till the
spring-time rouses the nesting instinct and again peoples the
beetling crags with noisy life.
Having reached the outermost headland after three full
hours of hard rowing against the wind, our boatmen sprung their
mast and rigged up a broad sail. The breeze had grown since
we started, and white-crested waves were prominent on the
reefs. We slid along to Stonehaven at a good pace, past
Tremuda Bay and Thornyhive, past Dunnottar ruins, which
look greatly different in appearance as seen from the sea, past
salmon nets and crab-creels, and overhead scattered parties of
sea-birds, racing from the sandy northern coast with morsels of
food to feed the hungry nestlings we had left behind in their
princely nursery at Fowlsheugh.
THE DEEP SEA
T SANK, methought, in ocean's deeps
* Far, far down till I trod the ooze,
Miles below where the sunlight sleeps,
Cradled in heaving greens and blues.
Calm and peaceful and passing cold,
Dark and grim was the lonesome floor ;
Only phosphoric gleamings told
What hideous forms the fauna wore.
Great bristling jaws, wide, wide agape,
And rounded, huge and goggle eyes,
And waving stalks of feather shape,
And red crustacean mysteries ;
Long, swaying tails and lanky limbs
And tentacles whose probing feel
Searches the slimy mud and skims
The lowly things that there conceal ;
For, ever fall, like snowflakes white,
One after one, the lifeless forms
That darted in the upper light,
Till dash'd to death by ruthless storms.
20 ALEXANDER MACKIE
Here comes not storm or current's flow ;
A perfect peace rules year by year ;
Winter and summer ne'er bestow
A darker day or brighter cheer.
This water-world is dismal, weird ;
Eternal night for ever reigns ;
No sound is heard, no flower is reared,
No putrefaction e'er profanes.
Yet death is here as everywhere,
Fierce tragic death from tooth and spine ;
The strong the less protected tear,
For such is nature's discipline.
I left, it seemed, these realms of gloom
And slowly clomb to air and light ;
Then waking, heard the breakers boom,
And saw the moon was shining bright.
FROM BUD TO LEAF
" . . Such a time as goes before the leaf,
When all the wood stands in a mist of green,
And nothing perfect."
THE transition from bare branch to leafy bough is always
a moment of lively interest, and this year in parti-
cular the bursting- of the buds has been so sudden, so
markedly beautiful and dramatic, that it deserves a special
word of comment. The long-continued winter kept back all
traces of green till May was well begun ; when the sun at last
regained his power, the response was immediate, and the
awakening has had something of a Canadian character. The
tassels of the flowering currant were hung out at an
early period, albeit they suffered for their temerity by being
nipped where exposed to the keen April frosts ; the silky
catkins of the hardy willow were not retarded beyond their
usual date, but they, too, lost their lustre under the constant
teasing of bitter north-easters. The hawthorns, here and
there in sheltered situations, thrust out a few tentative leaves,
which are now brown and shrivelled ; but all the other trees held
their tender leafage safe under the cover of the protecting
scales. Suddenly the temperature rose, the trigger was pulled,
and within a week the trees in and around the city are in that
condition which the late laureate so appositely describes as
a mist of green, with nothing perfect. Nowhere is this
charming state of matters more conspicuous than in Albyn
Place, where the daily deepening of the texture of green and
gold has superseded all the ordinary topics of conversation
22 ALEXANDER MACKIE
amongst those whose fate it is to traverse that sylvan highway
every morning. A week ago, right and left showed nothing
but bare, gaunt branches ; to-day the press of fresh leafage,
in all the clearness of bright colour and untarnished glory, is
a sight for old and young.
Perhaps the sycamores have the greatest breadth of
greenery to display ; their varied tints of gold and green are
every day extending their range of covert. Not far behind
them are the horse-chestnuts with their wide branches and the
drooping fan-like bunch of leaves at the tip of every shoot.
Most catching to the eye, however, are the copper beeches, of
which there are some supremely graceful specimens opposite
Albyn Terrace. These are at this moment a dream of
exquisite colouring, a soft and delicate lace-work in pink, a
vision of beauty that cannot be rivalled. Nothing in the way
of pure leafage, apart from flower colouring, can compare with
the first fortnight's kindling of the copper beech. As the
leaves expand, the colour deepens to purple, and though still
beautiful, they lose the delicate half-tones of their fledgling
hours. At present they look as if a colony of delicately-
tinted butterflies had lit on their arrowy sprays, butterflies of
fairyland " on tiptoe for a flight." By contrast with the more
prevalent green, the comparative rarity of this species no
doubt enhances the brightness of their exquisite rich colour-
ing. The ruby-budded limes, of which there are many over-
hanging the pavements, have protruded their million emeralds,
crumpled, callow, unfledged, without a stain, immaculate in
their purity and tenderness, and every twenty-four hours the
fabric grows thicker. The lilacs already are poising their
miniature flower-heads, with just the faintest tinge of
characteristic colour. The scarlet-flowering hawthorns have
also thrust out their beaded flower-buds, infants of the spring
with June's display in front of them. The feathers of the
rowan, the spangles of the birch, the satin tassels of the
FROM BUD TO LEAF 23
laburnum, are hourly taking more definite shape and reaching
their objective. The elm, the wide-branching elm, which a
month ago was rosy with multitudinous blossoms, is already
forming fruit, and the leaves, new from their silky sheaths,
are multiplying their cells at break-neck speed. The ashes
that guard the angle between Garden Place and Queen's Cross
are still gaunt and bare ; they give no sign that the sap is
stirring within their hard rinds. The tender ash delays to
clothe herself when all the woods are green, but further down
the street where there is shelter from the northern blasts, the
ashes show dark, swollen knobs at the apex of every branch,
evidence that the inconspicuous flowers are getting ready to
emerge, and will in due time whisper in the wind.
All trees of the same species do not show a uniformity of
forwardness. There are curious differences. The younger
trees are first ; the larger and more deeply-rooted trunks are
several days behind. Is this because their roots are sunk deep
in the cold boulder clay and glacial drift which is the sub-soil
of Aberdeen, and thus take more time to feel the effects of
the genial warmth? The black (Italian) poplars which line
part of Beechgrove Terrace are still untouched by any vestige
of green. They are as slow in their response as the ash itself.
Still they, too, are feeling those blind motions of the spring
that show the year is turned, and by and by their leaves will
be quivering in every ruffling breeze, like the aspens which in
some respects they resemble. But the Ontario or Canadian
poplar, which belongs to the same order, is showing its rich
gold-green. Unhappily, all these poplars in this region are
moribund. Every year sees a few die out, and the survivors
are losing ground. Whether this is due to disease, or to the
pruning which their rapid growth sometimes makes necessary,
we cannot say. We hazard the conjecture that the latter is the
cause, and that the practice of lopping off an unsightly branch
is fatal. Once a branch is lopped, the wet seems to find an
24 ALEXANDER MACKIE
entrance into the soft wood and decay begins. The bark
cracks vertically along the trunk, the younger branches
diminish their stock of leaves, and the tree begins to grow
more and more unsightly, until in a few years it is an ugly, half-
dead bole, calling for removal. Yet we are told that trees
which have never been pruned at all are going the same way.
Whatever the cause, this poplar's day is over, and no more
will be planted in this quarter. This is a misfortune, because
when it does thrive, the tree brings an element of brightness
into regions where few green leaves are seen, and it has often
cheered the gloom of slums, where no other tree will live. The
white poplar, of which there are one or two specimens in
Albyn Place, does not seem to suffer in this way, and these are
responding to the call of spring like the rest of their co-mates.
The service trees which are a speciality of Hamilton Place and
Fountainhall Road, are at their best in May. Later on, when
tarnished by the weather, they appear shabby and lack any
note of distinction, but, on their first emerging, the soft,
woolly, corrugated leaves are remarkably beautiful, and when
seen in a prolonged vista from one end of a street to the other,
have a fine effect.
Flowers and trees are hardly compatible. The wall-flowers
and hyacinths of Garden Place and Fountainhall Road scent
the air, and the daffodils and the tulips feast the eye, but
Albyn Place is poor in that respect, except it be the blaze of
dandelions that glorify the grass of Queen's Cross Church,
and which ought to point the moral of many of its Sunday
sermons. There is no cure for this bold intruder except a
potato crop, and although a belt of potato drills would be a
sordid setting for such a handsome edifice, yet one year of this
infirmity might be borne for the sake of an ultimate remedy.
As it is, year after year this nursery of dandelions is an eye-
sore to all enemies of this vilest and most tenacious of weeds.
A SPRING FLOOD
BUT yesterday the stream was moving slow,
Gliding pellucid, meek, within her narrow bed,
Kissing her pebbles grey and humming low
A sleepy tune to which no words were said.
The frost still bound her many mountain springs,
And shrunk her tumbling burns to summer rills ;
The chill north wind had flapped his blustering wings,
And snow lay white upon the distant hills.
With early morn a westering breeze upsprang,
From far Atlantic borne, and freshly blew
His shrilling trumpet loud, and at the clang
Their spotless hoods the silent hills withdrew.
Slowly they cast their garments down the glens,
And every tinkling rill became a flood,
Seething and raging past the shaggy bens,
No longer crystal clear but red like blood.
A hundred teeming runnels jostle gay,
Plunging like steeds on the lone prairie bred ;
Breathless they foam and dash their showers of spray
With hisses at each jagged boulder's head.
26 ALEXANDER MACKIE
And here in this low valley near the sea
Outstretched on grassy bank I watch the tide
Shoot past in headlong race, and loathe the glee
That shakes my stream's dark hour of reeling pride.
Her charm is gone, her sweet and winning grace,
That lured the angler with its sunny smile,
Has vanished from her brow and in its place
Are frowns and temper petulant and vile.
Her whisper'd tune is now become a roar,
Fierce, drunken, mad and truculent and hoarse ;
Her dimpled cheek is swollen and muddied o'er,
With bloated looks, ignoble, wanton, coarse.
Anon, when this wild rage hath passed away,
Her own true, beauteous self she will retrieve ;
Again will smile, decked out in sweet array,
And coyly woo the kiss of summer eve.
AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN
" Not wholly in the busy world, nor quite
Beyond it, blooms the garden that I love."
IT is perhaps too late in the day to reiterate the pleasures
of gardening as a healthy, engrossing, and soul-satisfying
pastime. They are too well known and too universally-
recognised to be redescribed here. The last word on the
subject was finely said by Francis Bacon when he wrote in his
essay "Of Gardens " " God Almighty first planted a garden.
And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures." Yet one
who spends much time amongst his flower-beds and vegetable
plots may give some slight modicum of pleasure or of insight
to others similarly employed, if he describe, however per-
functorily, the various activities that he engages in, and the
triumphs that gild or the failures that cloud his summer hours.
If you wish to take all the joy and genuine delight that can
be gained from such an employment, you must elect to be
your own gardener. The millionaire who has many skilful and
expert professionals to embellish his lawns may have pleasure
in contemplating the works of art which other brains have
planned and other hands have executed for his delectation
it is the joy of possessing a costly picture ; but he can never
taste the unalloyed pleasure that comes to the man whose
handiwork it is. It follows that, if you are to do your own
gardening, your area of ground must be strictly moderate,
otherwise it will be beyond your powers to deal with unaided.
28 ALEXANDER MACKIE
If it be larger than you can handle successfully, you are com-
pelled to hire auxiliaries to supplement your efforts ; and this
takes away much of the charm. Half an acre, or a third, or
even a fourth of an acre, in some cases, will be as much as
you can manage single-handed.
The writer's own modest demesne is probably less than the
third part of an acre, a long rectangular parallelogram sixty
feet broad and probably some 300 feet long, extending from
one street, which the dwelling-house fronts, facing north, right
to another parallel street on the south, to which access is
gained by a postern door. The greater part of the garden,
therefore, faces south, and is protected from the biting north
winds by the house, which is relatively high and broad. The
small part of garden facing the north, and lying between the
house and the street, is of little account. It has a few
thriving evergreen shrubs as an undergrowth, above which
wave the branches of a leafy lime tree, a copper beech, and a
few others. Beyond keeping it fairly tidy I pay little atten-
tion to this patch ; my activity concentrates itself on the long
This is divided into two portions, the upper half containing
a square of grass and a vegetable plot of similar size, while
round these run borders well-stocked with herbaceous and
bedding plants. The lower portion, which slopes gently to the
south, is almost entirely devoted to vegetable products, with
the exception of one considerable area given over to a
properly-levelled grass court suitable for tennis, Badminton,
or clock golf. A fringe of sycamores at the extreme end
screens us from the observation of the houses across the
street. The walls are covered with gooseberry and currant
bushes, with apple trees and morello cherries.
The first consideration is the grass two fairly large areas
to keep in good order. Nothing sets off a garden more effec-
tively than well-kept, smooth turf, free from coarse weeds.
AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 29
This means hard work, for dandelions and daisies, not bred by
yourself, but wafted by every gale from your less careful
neighbours, find a foothold on your turf, and must be ruth-
lessly removed. Once let these intruders get the upper hand
and you become paralysed and helpless. But dandelions,
though an eyesore to every gardener worthy of the name, are
easily dealt with, provided you act promptly, and adopt a
policy of constant watchfulness. If you cut off the green top
of each as it appears, and never give it time to vegetate and
absorb a store of carbon as a reserve of energy, you will find
that the plants gradually lose staying power, dwindle, and
finally disappear. Every fresh attempt at growth is feebler
than the last, and ultimately they are without force to send up
green leaves at all. If you wait till the green leafage has
stored up strength in the root, your task is greatly increased.
The moral is to decapitate each as soon as it shows face.
" Off with its head," and that promptly, is your cure. Daisies
are much more easily negotiated, and even creeping buttercups,
if they are assailed as soon as they appear. Above all, keep
the mower constantly busy ; that is the secret of the short,
smooth, crisp turf, so pleasant to the tread and so agreeable
to the eye. How much more charming a neat lawn is when
kept entirely by the labours of your own unaided hands, and
how much more pride you take in eyeing the trimly clipped
edges when you have used the big garden shears to good
The same applies to the vegetables you grow. Utilitarians
without sentiment ask, What is the use of growing cabbages
or peas or beetroot, or carrots and turnips, when you can buy
them so cheaply? Such cold, stony people do not under-
stand. They ,have never felt the glow of satisfaction with
which you hand to your cook (reluctantly, it may be, for now
their day is done and all your anxious effort has reached its
culminating point) a brace of juicy cabbages, free from the
3 o ALEXANDER MACKIE
pollution of caterpillars, or a basket of succulent lettuces, or
your first dish of green peas, with plump, long, well-filled pods.
You aver with certitude that they taste better than those
bought in the shops, and, even though your prosaic friends jeer
at this conviction, affirming that it is only your narrow personal
bias, there is something sound in your contention, for your
products go straight to the kitchen pot, and are not limp and
flabby and lifeless from exposure for hours in the sunny
window of a greengrocer's store. You like to gather the
peas with your own hand ; another would uproot the growing
stems, and work irremediable ravage. You make a point of
digging your early potatoes in person ; no one else will see
that not a single tuber is missed. You resent the cook's
helping herself to vegetables ; she invariably chooses the wrong
ones. The ignorance displayed by these culinary deities is
appalling. They mistake cress for parsley, cut down your
young radishes in the belief that they are mustard, know no
difference between a spring cabbage and a winter one, nor
between a Swedish turnip and an early Milan. They will step
regardless on the newly-sown beds, and scatter waste leaves
on your neatly-raked paths, and, when they gather flowers,
think nothing of plucking up whole plants by the root. These
misdemeanours justify you in excluding their hands from
participation in your proceedings.
No doubt you have your worries, for gardening in city
suburbs is at best often a heartless and ungrateful labour.
Your spring onions dwindle away in the first week of July
till not a single plant is left surviving. They have been
" eaten of worms," the larvae of the common fly showing a great
relish for such toothsome dainties. Leeks as a rule are
exempt from these attacks, as also are shallots ; but even
these in certain seasons are victimised. Carrots are the most
uncertain of crops. Some years, by a liberal application of
diluted sheep-dip, which is strongly carbolic, you may save
AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 31
them. Another season, in spite of hard tramping of the soil
when wet, they give way. Right on to the middle of July they
look well and thriving, when suddenly one morning you find
some plants drooping and yellow the carrot fly has obtained
access, and the larvae have severed the tap-root and cut off the
chief source of food-supply. Your beet has been thinned out
on a uniform and well-considered plan, when all at once the
symmetry of the ranks is broken by the appearance of dead
plants all along the line. When you examine them you find
that each has been sawn through at the neck. Scrape the
earth from round the root and you will discover the
depredators, the larvae of the daddy-long-legs, which, under
cover of darkness, come from their hiding-place in the earth
to work you woe and devour the stems which you had destined
to give relish to your salt beef in the winter. Sometimes a
plague of slugs, especially after a frostless winter, threatens
to decimate your first sowing of turnips and your spring
cabbages. A pair of ducks which I have introduced, and
which are allowed the free run of the garden during the
evening hours, when the slugs begin their browsing, soon
convert these succulent morsels into ducks' eggs, fresh every
morning for breakfast
ONE great trouble to the gardener, and the source of half
his labour, is the getting rid of weeds. The enthusiasm
of the keenest of amateurs is apt to succumb to this
obstacle. He -allows the weeds to run rampant for a while,
and finds, when he begins to tackle the problem, that it is
beyond coping with. Especially formidable is this trial when
the garden is either absolutely new or very old and neglected.
3 2 ALEXANDER MACKIE
A few years' strenuous perseverance is necessary to overcome
the evil. The point is never to allow your weeds, whether
they be merely grass or chickweed or shepherd's purse, to run
to seed. One year of slackness or neglect and the soil will
be so stocked with seeds that they will come up every time
the earth is turned over, for many years afterwards. My
garden has been carefully tended for twenty years, and the
weeds are few. Such as exist come with the farmyard manure,
or are blown over the walls from waste places or the gardens
of less scrupulous husbandmen than myself. Thistles,
groundsel, and dandelions all arrive in this way ; but they are
easily destroyed in the young stage. Couch grass and bishop's
weed, which have underground creeping stems, are insidious
enemies, and are frequently found in very old gardens where
they have been allowed to run riot for years. You often see
them in old manse gardens. Here drastic methods must be
employed, even at the risk of losing a season's crop ; other-
wise you will have no after satisfaction. My garden walks
have not been hoed for years, and now they are so hard that
no seed can find a lodgment in them. Such as do appear are
scooped out with an old knife. It is when you have reduced
the labour which arises from this cause to a minimum that
you really enjoy the work of your hands. Your time and
trouble can then be monopolised by the plants you want to
grow, and not wasted on these unwelcome intruders. In
one way weeds are not bad, for they necessitate a constant
stirring of the soil to keep them down, and this moving of
the surface conduces to good growth of vegetables by letting
air into the roots ; but this can be done with much more
expedition and ease if there are no weeds to kill.
There is, of course, the further question of insect pests
caterpillars devouring your cabbages and cauliflowers, and
making them unsightly; red spider destroying the leafage
and therefore the life of your apple trees ; the winter moth
AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 33
playing havoc amongst the leaves of your roses and amongst
the apple leaves that the red spider has left ; the caterpillars of
magpie moths denuding your gooseberry bushes ; earwigs
drilling holes in your dahlias and devouring your French beans.
All these things are very vexatious, and have to be combated
in their season.
Once a week you must walk up your cabbage rows, turning
over the larger and the lower leaves ; you will find nests of
eggs of the cabbage- white butterfly, dainty little yellow-
beaded protuberances, set up on end like tiny skittles in regular
array. They will hatch out in a day or two, and become
greedy, voracious little caterpillars, so that you are just in time
to closure their potentialities. A pinch between finger and
thumb reduces the whole brood to helplessness. If you
should miss, as you certainly will miss, however keen your
eyesight, a clutch of these, your omission will be apparent on
your next inspection, in devastation going merrily on within
a certain area. With good eyes and some patience you may
partially retrieve your mistake, but the great thing is to
anticipate the hatch-out.
Red spider is most destructive in dry seasons to trees on
walls ; the remedy is to syringe the affected trees with cold
water once a day. This takes valuable time which you would
prefer to devote to more important duties, but if you do not
act opportunely the little parasites will suck the life from
every leaf, and make your trees in early June a sorry sight, and
in no condition to mature the apples which may have set. By
and by fresh leafage will come, and moister weather will keep
the tiny mites at bay, but the half of your fruit will drop to the
ground from lack of leaf nourishment.
The winter -moth is a dreadful enemy to rose bushes and to
apple trees. Hand-picking is the only cure, and that is a
tedious, toilsome, and uninteresting business. Best of all,
encourage the nesting of tits and chaffinches in your garden,
34 ALEXANDER MACKIE
and these will prove most potent and efficient helpers. The
worst of it is that, with so many cats about for almost every
household in your vicinity is sure to have a cat these useful
birds are scared away. For six years running a pair of tits
have nested in the hollow of a dead tree in my garden, and
during June are most assiduous in supplying caterpillars to
their young brood. Unfortunately for me, they are just as
kind to my neighbours as they are to me, and show a
catholicity of spirit that I sometimes wish were more sectarian.
One drawback which militates against the complete success
of your endeavours is the necessity of shutting up your house,
and making a prolonged summer sojourn in the country. This
is always felt to be a grievance by the amateur gardener. He
leaves the work of his hands just at the moment when he is
beginning to take satisfaction in it, when the worst of his
labour is over, and when fruition is in sight. By the time of
returning there will be many things to rectify which a very
little attention at the proper moment would have prevented.
Though weeds may be riotous, they will not, if you took care
to leave none visible when you departed, have had time to
shed their seeds. It is a comical sight to behold a house-
holder, on the eve of his departure for the country, going
round his garden, basket in hand, for the last time, to annex
any stray weed, however tiny, that may have escaped his
previous notice. Thus only can he minimise the detriment that
is sure to arise from his enforced absence. A few days of
fierce activity on his return will bring order once more out of
chaos, and thereafter things are normal for the rest of the
Much more might be said. The pleasure of perambulating
your plots when welcome rain has come after a period of pro-
longed drought, when the plants respond so instantaneously to
the refreshing showers ; of watching the scarlet runners as
they clip their supports and twine round the long bamboo canes,
AN AMATEUR'S GARDEN 35
invariably in one direction, contrary to the course of the sun,
and making, as it were, a competitive race for the top, when
you are ready to back some favourite for the premier place ;
timing the growth of peas from their first emergence above
ground to the flowering stage, and from the first appearance
of blossom to the moment of gathering the first dish of the
season these are simple but genuine pleasures. To some
they seem trivial, worthless, and small ; but to those who have
tasted such delights they are sedative, medicinal, and altogether
wholesome and innocent.
[Schoolmaster, Free Church Institution, Macduff. Died 1410 May, 1907.]
\\7 7 HERE the grey church o'erlooks the pebbled shore,
The sheltered haven and the dark blue sea,
Close by the walls that hear his voice no more,
We lay to rest that bright activity.
A valiant heart was his, and staunch and true ;
He march'd breast-forward, strenuous for the right,
And stamp'd his impress deep, and ever drew
From each whate'er was worthiest of light.
Unwearied, zealous, forceful, firm, he cast
The seeds of knowledge wide, and saw them rise
To many a branching tree that long will last ;
Thus, thus he spent himself, and now he lies
Lulled by the voices of his boys at play,
Soothed by the murmur of the restless bay.
[Editor of "The Northern Psalter." Died 2nd January, 1908, aged 83.]
T T is not meet that he who paid the debt
Which Sorrow's tears to stricken friendship pay,
Himself should pass without some plaintive lay,
Some note of admiration and regret.
We loved the sparkling wit, in wisdom set,
The twinkling eye with all its merry play,
The kindly, tender soul that knew the way
To crown the humble with a coronet.
He took the young aspirant by the hand,
He whispered to the struggler words of hope ;
Transformed, refined, and raised our vocal art,
Sowing his precepts broadcast o'er the land ;
He gave King David's Psalms a freer scope
And tuned these holy songs to touch the heart.
JAMES MYERS DANSON
[Dean of the Diocese of Aberdeen and Orkney. Died 2gth December, 1909,
HT'HE Grand Climacteric, like bird of prey,
Swoops down with silent wing, now there, now here,
Piercing our best, and those we hold most dear;
And thus we lose him, see him borne away,
From Council-board and festive gathering gay.
He fell on peaceful sleep at ebb of year,
When singing birds are mute, days short and drear,
And skies all sombre in their veil of grey.
He passes, but his virtue echoes loud :
The polished, silver speech that held the crowd,
The cultured mind, playing with lucid glow
On whatsoe'er is thought or done below ;
The cordial hand-grip and the courtly grace
Who can forget that saw him face to face?
GEORGE WEBSTER THOMSON
[Minister of the West United Free Church, Aberdeen. Died 5th May, 1907,
A CROSS the woods veiled in their mist of green,
Across the springing fields and gardens gay
With hyacinths and tulips, flowers of May,
The trumpet-call shrilled through the night serene,
And found him ready, as he e'er had been,
With lamp aflame, and as he prayed that they
Who were his flock should be, to thread the way,
The dark and sunless road towards the unseen.
His was a mind that gathered for delight
Whate'er was steeped in beauty, grace, and art ;
He loved his native hills and felt their might ;
He owned the painter's eye, the poet's heart,
As tender as a woman's when she brings
Her wiles to soothe an infant's sufferings.
TO THE DANDELION
" "\ 7ILE weed ! " the gardener calls thee, lusty flower !
And tears thy sturdy root in bitter hate ;
But thou hast solved life's problem, and thy dower
Of selfish wisdom he will ne'er checkmate.
Thou dost not wait for April's warmer skies,
Nor linger till the leaf is on the elm,
We see thee ope thy saffron-coloured eyes
And early seize waste places for thy realm.
Thy yellow discs keen-sighted bees allure,
And merry children tales of woe recall,
Linking thy stems as fetters insecure
To hold their mimic prisoners in thrall.
And when full summer comes and shoots her darts,
So nicely aimed, into thy fairy shield,
Thy downy spheres to anxious lovers' hearts
A mystic sense and fateful visions yield.
TO THE DANDELION 41
Thy lush rosette of leafage makes a ring,
Barring the entrance of all rivals weak ;
The modest daisy owns thee as her king,
Grasses and humbler herbs to thee are meek.
Thy milky root like fabled hydra grows,
And severed oft, restores its bushy head;
Thy feathered fruit the north or south wind blows,
Till sunk in earth it rises from the dead.
Type of the hard and forceful, callous man,
Engrossed in sordid pelf, who crushes down
The meeker, purer souls with noisy ban,
And eagerly usurps their promised crown!
THE COMMON MOLE
AN OBJECT LESSON
" Old mole ! canst work i' the earth so fast ?
A worthy pioneer!"
A LTHOUGH the mole has become a proverbial symbol
A~\ for blindness, he is by no means the dense, stupid
quadruped that some in their ignorance of his ways
have judged him. He more than makes up for his defects
of vision by increased acuteness in other senses. The
abnormal strength, in proportion to his size, of the forepart of
his body, his powerful digging paws, and the whole structure
of his compact little organism, so admirably adapted to his
environment, make him, notwithstanding his somewhat unlovely
exterior, an interesting study. If it should be your lot to
find one of these intruders riddling your garden with sub-
terranean galleries, you will exercise your talents to good
purpose in trying to catch him, and it will be no reflection on
your skill if, after all, he eludes your most cunning devices.
Sport is not rife in a city garden ; an occasional rat may find
his way into your modest demesne, and being vermin as all
animals in the wrong place are and a purely destructive
agency, he invites his doom ; but he is an easy prey as com-
pared with the common mole, until you have acquired the
necessary experience. Fortunately, it is a rare occurrence for
Talpa europaa to invade such inaccessible territory, forti-
fied as it is by deeply- founded stonework on every side.
What tempted the specimen the last chapter of whose
history is here narrated to transfer his activity from the open
THE COMMON MOLE 43
fields to a vegetable garden in the suburbs, or how he managed
to effect an entrance, it were impossible to guess; but the
fact remains that after a seven weeks' absence in the country,
when the garden was first inspected, there were palpable
evidences of an energetic intruder, who had been raising mole-
heaps in all directions amongst the early potatoes, between
the cabbages, and under the turnip drills. Minuter investiga-
tion disclosed a systematic network of miniature tunnels
running down one boundary' wall, crossing the ground at the
foot, and returning by irregular lines to the original focus,
ruthlessly undermining in their course your choicest cauli-
flowers, striking athwart your beetroot lines, and endangering
the young roots of the most cherished and succulent products
of your industry. Being a tyro at mole-catching, you at first
think a few minutes of well-directed spade-work will unearth
your unwelcome and destructive visitant, but repeated
endeavours in this direction convince you that no remedy lies
that way. You next invest in a spring mole-trap, which at a
moderate cost promises to rid you of your busy tormentor.
You make an incision in his subterranean gallery at a point
where his operations seem recent, and inserting your trap
right in his line of march, you count on having him by the heels
without fail next morning. When daylight comes, although
he has been active during the darkness, as evidenced by
freshly-upheaved mould, he has not approached the vicinity
of your trap, and you change your venue only to find next day
that he has been very much alive in the region you unwisely
vacated. Indeed, he is always much in evidence where the
trap is not. So the game of hide-and-seek goes on, and you
begin to get exasperated at human intelligence being check-
mated by a mere mole, when a happy inspiration suggests
Why not multiply your traps and plant your engines at various
places? You increase your armament accordingly, until your
garden bristles with well-distributed weapons of offence, and
44 ALEXANDER MACKIE
every evening before dusk you lay your trains as subtly as
possible without result. Once indeed a spring is jumped,
and the depredator must have been within an ace of capture,
but the loose nature of the garden soil no doubt clogged the
spring at the crucial moment, and he succeeded in wriggling
out. After a fortnight's pursuit he is still at large, and every
morning leaves some mocking trace of his nocturnal energies.
Sometimes you trace him right up to the cannon's mouth, but
he either turns aside and by a semi-circular detour rejoins the
original burrow at a point beyond the zone of danger, or, if
you have rendered this course difficult by a breastwork of
stones, he coolly dives lower, hollowing a new tunnel right
under his former path and emerging in the old rut scathless.
It dawns upon you that mole-catching is not the easy pastime
you imagined, and it flashes on your mind that the reason why
the mole-catcher of the country districts confines his attention
to this art must be that it demands special skill and knowledge
besides concentrated effort and undivided singleness of aim-
that it is in truth a profession in which success is forbidden to
all but the specialist and expert.
This thought damps your ardour as an amateur, and in a
pessimistic mood you are despairing of success, when chance
throws in your way a tried hand of many wiles who has slain
his hundreds. His counsels are a revelation. Avoid handling
the trap, for the mole's sense of smell is so acute that he will
not venture within an inch of your gin if its vital centre has
been contaminated by the contact of human fingers. Second,
cover your trap thoroughly up so as absolutely to exclude both
light and air, for he is morbidly sensitive to both. These
counsels sound promising ; they seem to explain your repeated
failures, and you hasten to apply them with circumspection,
setting your trap, not as before with the unaided hand, but
with a pair of iron pincers, and by the help of a tough piece
of compact turf you secure a well-constructed roof, which
THE COMMON MOLE 45
prevents the settling down of loose mould on the jaws of the
trap and ensures the free and instantaneous play of the spring
at the moment of release. The application of these cardinal
precepts is a triumphant vindication of their wisdom, and one
fine morning the potent and resistless steel grips the resource-
ful immigrant in the loins and puts a sudden end to his multi-
farious burrowings. There he lies with his mobile snout, his
almost invisible eyes, his sleek, silky skin, unsoiled by a speck
of earth, his broad, muscular paws turned outwards as in life
a model of natural adaptation, and doubtless serving a useful
purpose in the economy of nature by creating in his search
for worms an artificial tilth where such is necessary. But your
Brussels sprouts, undermined and torn from their feeding
roots, are hanging limp and flagging in the sun, and your
momentary fit of sympathy for your victim is replaced by a
feeling of satisfaction that at last your languishing vegetables
will mature in peace ; and it is without compunction that you
consign his dumpy little carcase to mother earth.
THE COMMON SPARROW
THERE is a bird of homely kind,
Whose range of note is narrow,
Whose ways are rude and unrefined
He's called the common sparrow.
He cannot sing, he never soars,
He flaunts no flashing colour,
He merely chirps ; and yet our doors,
Without his chirp, were duller.
When grain I scatter in my yard,
To fatten up my poultry,
Although unseen, the thief's on guard,
And pops down from an old tree.
He maims my garden every spring,
He pecks my peas and crocus ;
Papers or feathers on a string
He knows for hocus-pocus.
The blackbird or the thrush may steal
A ripe or ripening cherry :
Such petty thefts I do not feel ;
Their songs are worth a berry.
THE COMMON SPARROW 47
But sparrow is a parasite
Who thrives on other's labours,
A masterful, pugnacious mite
Who quarrels with his neighbours.
Low tastes inform this dumpy wight,
He is a true plebeian ;
He never drinks the lark's delight,
Or wings the empyrean.
Quite unconcerned he makes his home
In slum or gloomy alley,
By well-stocked farm or church's dome,
By manor or by chdlet.
Where man resorts, he plants his tent,
With man he loves to wander ;
He conquers every continent,
And rivals Alexander.
[To His Majesty King Edward VII. on the occasion of the inauguration
of the New Buildings, Marischal College, Aberdeen, 27th September,
is the North and cold the Northern Sea
With its keen winds, and cold the granite grey."
Thus have they said; What say they? Let them say!
Warm are the hearts that beat by Silver Dee
And glowing welcome do they pulse to thee,
To thee our gracious Sire, this festal day,
And to thy beauteous Queen ; and humbly pay
Their meed of grateful homage loyally.
Nor these alone ; for with us, hand in hand,
Are gather'd now from many a distant land
The wisest and the best of those who reign
In Letters, come to bless our ancient fane,
Our renovated pile, which knows it true
That frigid hearts in frigid climes are few.
JOHN MARSHALL LANG
[Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University ot Aberdeen.
Died and May, igog, aged 74.]
May, sweet May, had filled her lap with flowers
And loiter'd trembling on the bud-starred way
That leads to roses and the summer day,
The moonlit crown of King's and yon twin towers,
Rising above the old Cathedral bowers,
Heard the soft-whisper'd call to one who lay
Ready to break his staff and yield the sway
Of Academic life to other powers.
Great master of the happy phrase, he knew
To shape the common thought in winged speech
That pierced the air as with a trumpet sound ;
A force resplendent, strong, yet of the few
Who win by tactful arts and ever reach
The goal they purpose without fret or wound.
[Died i8th September, 1903, aged 85.]
WERE vain to fret when Autumn flutters down
Her sere and wrinkled leaves, outworn and grey
'Tis vain to grieve when sages pass away,
Their duty nobly done, with bright renown
Circling their mem'ry like a golden crown.
So thee beneath the reverent sod we lay,
Keen-eyed philosopher! whose name held sway
Where Learning wears her Academic gown.
The subtle brain that pierced the mists of thought
Gives now no quick response ; the kindly heart
Touch'd to sweet, helpful issues, beats no more :
A lasting monument thy labour wrought,
Of honest work, of search for truth, of art
To cleave each stubborn problem to the core.
" Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail
Or knock the breast ; no weakness, no contempt,
Dispraise, or blame ; nothing but well and fair,
And what may quiet us in a death so noble."
" Samson Agonistes "
HE death of David Mather Masson at 85 removes from
JL the four thousand names in the University Council, a
name of great literary distinction, perhaps the name of
greatest eminence in the present list He has not, like many
others whose loss we deplore, been cut off in his prime ; he
had completed his course, and a life of arduous labour has
closed with honour, reverence, love, and troops of friends.
Great precocity is too often the presage of a shortened life,
but Masson's career is an exception. To be first bursar at
12, to graduate with honourable distinction at 16, to be editor
of a newspaper at 19, and that in a time of acute and
acrimonious controversy, are no ordinary exploits. From the
uncertain lottery of Nature, he had the good luck to draw the
double gift of a vigorous frame of body and an alert and
enquiring mind. These great gifts he husbanded with skill
and brought them to a happy fruition. From a humble home
in the Gilcomston Steps near the Royal Infirmary, he rose to
be Professor of English Literature in the metropolitan
university of Scotland, and for thirty years exercised a most
beneficent, abiding, and inspiring influence on the under-
graduates of Edinburgh. He was, besides, a pioneer in the
work of providing Higher Education for women, and, long
before the university doors were thrown open to them, he
52 ALEXANDER MACKIE
voluntarily gave them the benefit of his prelections. His
researches on Milton and Milton's Century, his masterly
exposition of the cosmogony of Paradise Lost, and his
thorough handling of every difficulty connected with that
difficult poem have earned the lasting gratitude of scholarship.
We have heard several contemporaries speak of Masson's
undergraduate days. Dr. Bain, who followed him to Marischal
College, but was four years his senior, often referred to the
declaration of bursars in Masson's year. In those days a
Latin version was the sole test ; and the successful names were
announced the morning after the competition, the examiners
sitting up all night to complete their task. The candidates
hung about the Town House door the livelong night, braving
the cold and wet of late October, and too impatient of the
result to think of going to bed. At six o'clock, Dr. Murray,
minister of the North Church, came to the door and in the
grey dawn gratified the expectant crowd of sleepy school-
boys by announcing " David Masson (which he pronounced
Mason), First Bursar." Another contemporary recalled the
fact that Masson was so diminutive in stature that his College
gown came to his very heels, and that the boy himself was the
" bonniest " boy he had ever seen. His fresh and ruddy
complexion and finely-marked features drew all eyes towards
him wherever he went.
Bain and Masson in early life were inseparable friends,
took long walks together, unbosomed their thoughts with
perfect confidence to each other, and when ultimately
separated kept up the intercourse by correspondence. Their
walk in life gradually drew apart, Bain giving himself up more
and more to philosophical studies, and Masson becoming more
and more engrossed in literature, but they were firm friends to
the last. These two were grand types of the best products
of the Northern University without any supplement from
Oxford or Cambridge. They were in some respects moulded
PROFESSOR MASSON 53
after a common pattern, but in Masson the humanising effect
of literary studies was increasingly apparent in a beneficent
and large-minded tolerance and in great lovableness of dis-
position, whereas in Bain this influence, never very strong,
ceased to operate. Bain, though always a kindly man, became,
as he grew older, less and less emotional and imaginative, but
with Masson the reverse was true. He was the most sociable
of men. A great smoker (at one time he smoked an ounce
of tobacco daily), he loved to sit and have his talk out with a
congenial friend, pouring out reminiscences of De Quincey,
of Thomas Carlyle, of the great Dr. Chalmers and the Non-
Intrusion Controversy. Professor Davidson recalls the
circumstance that once at the Manse at Bourtie, Masson and
Minto spent a whole summer day in the Manse garden, each
with his canister of tobacco under his arm, and each blowing
clouds of smoke from his pipe, and the talk flowed freely all
Aberdeen was much in his thoughts. He never lost his
love for his native city. Once in the presence of Dr. Walter
C. Smith we heard him ask the poet whether he remembered
catching " flukes " at the mouth of the Don, and the question
opened up a flood of reminiscences of Aberdeen in the 'Thirties.
The University made him an LL.D. in 1864; his face was
reproduced in the Mitchell Window ; and he was honoured by
being asked to unveil the Burns statue in 1892. These were
the only acknowledgments ever made by his native city of her
appreciation of his rise. At the banquet subsequent to the
unveiling ceremony, he referred to the visits he" used to pay in
the company of Professor Cruickshank to the observatory of
Marischal College tower and exclaimed, amidst the plaudits of
his hearers, " v Oh, there never were such stars in the world as
those I saw from the top of Marischal College." He dearly
loved to discuss the derivation and meaning of local words.
We recall how, at his own dinner-table, he elucidated the
54 ALEXANDER MACKIE
word " antrin," throwing out the sentence, " I hae seen her at
an antrin time," for the benefit of those who had never heard
the word. His laugh was of the hearty, genuine sort that
Carlyle made a test of heroism. With what a guffaw he
greeted the word " bass " (a door mat) ; he had not heard it,
he said, for forty years. He was an out-and-out Scot, and
had no patience with those who attempted to belittle or
traduce Scottish sentiment. " There are very few Scotchmen,
who, whatever they may pretend, are devoid of pride in being
Scotchmen. Penetrate to the heart of any Scotchman, even
the most Anglified, and there will certainly be seen a remnant
in it of loving regard for this little land that lies north of the
His books are for the most part of lasting value. His
monumental work on Milton, in six ponderous volumes, might
be called the last word on that subject, if a last word could be
said on any subject. Professor Raleigh may come in with his
delightful criticisms, but no further research is possible.
Every topic is probed to the bottom with the most complete
thoroughness. Whatever Masson undertook he did thoroughly.
He elaborated his ideas with a slow and deliberate pertinacity
that sometimes irritates those who want a short cut, and who
wish to reach a conclusion more rapidly. Perfect lucidity was
his ideal, and he could not let the subject go till he attained
absolute clearness. His notes on Milton's poetry are models.
They explain whatever needs explanation, and they indicate
striking features in Milton's art, but they are not made pegs
on which to hang a display of erudition. His own writing was
never slipshod or hurried. In one of his books he fulminates
in no measured terms against the misrelated or floating parti-
ciple, an insidious error which he denounced as the commonest
but most objectionable error of our own time. Some critics
complained that the influence of Carlyle was too apparent in
the style of certain of his books. Occasionally one will come
PROFESSOR MASSON 55
across expressions and turns of sentence that suggest Carlyle's
ways, but they are not so common as such criticisms would
suggest. He had not the lightness of touch that characterises
present-day criticism. Solidity rather than grace was his
prominent quality, but he has left his mark on the history of
English Literature, and his professorial teaching has had far-
reaching influences which will not easily be effaced.
THE PRAYER OF GREYFRIARS
[The extension of Marischal College, Aberdeen, necessitated the demolition
of the pre- Reformation Church of Greyfriars, which was replaced by a
new structure in conformity with the University Buildings.]
T"*\ISTURB me not, ye Vandals! I am grey
^~^ With eld, deformed, unsightly, too, they say ;
But centuries have pass'd since first I rose,
A Gothic structure fair, and when the foes
Of Rome reformed the Church and swept the land
Of Papal power, I 'scaped their ruthless hand.
Leave me in peace! Much have I heard and seen!
I heard the wail o'er Flodden ; Mary, Queen
Of Scots and Beauty, lived when I was young- ;
I, passive, saw Spain's proud Armada flung
By raging billows of the wild North Sea
To fate our sister's glorious victory.
Destroy me not! The Royal Martyr's fate
To me seems but a thing of recent date,
Though five-and-twenty decades have roll'd past
Since " right divine of kings " to earth was cast.
I can recall the Revolution great
Which shook my hoary walls in 'Eighty-eight.
THE PRAYER OF GREYFRIARS 57
Lay not unholy hands upon my dust!
Nor yield to Philistines' destroying lust.
I felt the " Fifteen " and the " Forty-five,"
Bootless to keep the Stuart cause alive.
I heard the bear, Sam Johnson, growl along
The Broadgate, snubbing faithful Bozzy's tongue.
Oh ! spare this fane ; for once a pale, lame boy
Who lived hard by, played " hide-and-seek " with joy
Among my dusky buttresses and cast
An eye poetic on my windows vast.
He woke one morn and found satiric fame,
But died heroic death and left a name.
Oh, wreck me not! but let me shine renewed
By builder's skill, and let this endless feud
Which once condemned me, then reprieved, expire.
Be grateful to the son of worthy sire,
And let his thousands ten transform my face ;
Root out those squalid booths that crowd my base,
Then I shall flash to view, a happy contrast rare
To those gay, dizzy towers, that pierce the upper air.
A GEM in Time's tiara shineth bright
** That yester mom we saw not sparkling there ;
A hundred years 'twas forming, round and fair,
And now 'tis fix'd eterne, like star of night.
Meantime, man learn'd to harness Nature's might,
And skim the seas, and o'er the land to fare
Swifter than darting swallows fly ; laid bare
The secrets of the stars ; created light
Whose brilliance shames the sun ; withdrew the veil
That hides the subtle germs of life his bane
And oft-times death ; disclosed the strange advance
From lowly forms to ever higher scale,
And taught our thoughts to flash across the main,
Destroying space a boon beyond romance.
THE CENTURIES 59
A mother loves with fondly- forward eyes
Upon her infant's after-days to pore,
And we forecast the years, grasping the ore
That in their hidden mines uncertain lies;
But who can guess what marvellous surprise
The waves of coming time will roll ashore?
Shall mankind vie with albatross and soar
With easy flight across the fickle skies?
Or shall the mists that cloud Disease's darts
Be blown aside? The restless ebb and flow
Of tides be turned to happy use, and wipe
The sweat from many brows? Or warlike arts
Be changed to bloodless peace ? Or shall men grow
To heights of knowledge and to wisdom ripe?
THE TREE ARTISTIC AND THE
ART and science, beauty and utility, are opposed couples.
They look at the world and at Nature's products through
different spectacles. Nowhere is the antagonism between
the utilitarian spirit and the aesthetic more pronounced
than in the matter of trees. The tree of art and the tree of
commerce are miles asunder. A painter or a poet contemplates
with an artist's love of beauty the individual oak, or elm, or
beech, wide-branched, well-balanced, umbrageous, swaying in
every breeze. He loves to hear its branches whisper in the
summer wind or groan under the fury of a hurricane. He
shelters under its leafage during a sudden shower, he sees
the Dryad lurking within the screen of its close-pent boughs.
The commercial forester or wood merchant, on the other hand,
derides such vegetable growths as mere cumberers of the
ground, since they have no commercial value and are good
only for firewood. What he loves is the long, straight stem,
free from branches and knots, the finely tapering trunk that
rises straight from the ground, and will saw up into clean
and serviceable planks. Each is entitled to his own point of
view. One sees only the beauty of the branching stem, where
individuality has enjoyed ample room and free play to work
out its ideal ; the other looks farther ahead, and estimates
value entirely by the standard of the woodyard. The points
of view are incompatible, irreconcilable, opposed, and yet
there is room, there is a necessity for both in this imperfect
world. The market gardener who grows narcissus and jonquils,
THE TREE ARTISTIC 61
roses and carnations for Covent Garden, is limited by utility
and economy. He rears his plants in rigid, stiff, mechanical
rows, utilising every inch of the ground, and calculating on
so many blooms to the square foot. The landscape gardener,
on the other hand, who caters only for beauty to the eye,
dots his plants at intervals over his demesne, and tempts them
to flash their charms forth at unexpected moments on the
Undoubtedly the artist's standpoint is the one accepted by
the generality of mankind. Who that has traversed the
grounds of some ancient manor-house, and has stopped to
survey the mighty growths that give variety and grandeur to
the grassy lawns but finds himself on the side of the poets?
"Enormous elm -tree-boles did stoop and lean
Upon the dusky brushwood underneath
Their broad curved branches, fledged with clearest green,
New from its silken sheath."
The wood merchant looks askance, and shrugs his
shoulders at this kind of wood ; but the towering, rounded
sycamores, the leafy, wide-armed chestnuts, the branching
oaks, and elms of gnarled bark, the smooth-skinned beeches
radiating off into a thousand branching stems are full of beauty
to the artist's as well as to the ordinary man's eye. It is
useless for the forester to plead that if all the solid wood of
such trees, instead of being dissipated in multitudinous and
useless branches, which are mere lumber, were concentrated in
one straight stem, the commercial value would be multiplied
a hundredfold. It is true, but irrelevant The money value
would be increased, but the beauty would be lost. Man
cannot live by commerce alone. The world would be the
poorer, and life rendered more barren, but for the glory of
the branching, solitary tree.
The trees of commerce must be planted close together
62 ALEXANDER MACKIE
no more than a yard apart. The struggle for air and light
forces all active growth to the head ; the side branches get
no encouragement ; they cease to prosper ; by and by they die
and drop off decayed. The result is a dense mass of straight
clean stems, devoid of branches, lacking in those hard knots
that give trouble to the saw and the plane, and destroy the
uniform quality of the wood. It is such crowding that makes
the ideal wood of the joiner and the house carpenter. In a
pleasure park, where trees are grown for beauty, and beauty
alone, each is granted ample space and elbow-room. The side
branches obtain plenty of light and air. They develop just
as vigorously as the main stem. The result is a leafy, much-
divided series of boughs, tapering off in all directions, " laying
their dark arms about the field." This is the secret of their
varied beauty. Hence Keats could appreciate large, branching
" As when, upon a tranced summer-night,
Those green-robed senators of mighty woods,
Tall oaks, branch-charmed by the earnest stars,
Dream, and so dream all night without a stir."
And Tennyson could on similar lines describe elms and
"Witch-elms that counterchange the floor
Of this flat lawn with dusk and bright ;
And thou, with all thy breadth and height
Of foliage, towering sycamore."
Afforestation is in the air, and our waste places will soon
be crowded with rising firs and larches. This is well, but we
should be careful to see that in the new departure the artistic
side of tree life shall not be obliterated, and that in certain
areas the beauty that comes from leaving trees to grow green
and broad under natural conditions and without artificial
restrictions, shall be preserved.
THE TREE ARTISTIC 63
One wonders why our preachers have not utilised this
distinction for moral purposes. The solitary tree, growing by
itself and with ample scope for development in every direction,
blown upon by every breeze, thrusting its roots deep, and its
branches wide apart, is typical of that individuality, sturdy,
independent, stalwart, and beautiful, which is rarer to-day than
it was in previous centuries. The trees of the close-packed
forest, slim, tapering, all of a uniform pattern, without
individuality or marked idiosyncrasy, are an analogy to modern
life in large cities. Our close-packed civilisation tends to
make all citizens after one pattern. Individuality is sunk ; we
develop no knotty features ; our roots are shallow ; we have
not buffeted with the winds and the storms ; we are units in a
crowd, as like as peas. We have rubbed off our knots and
our gnarls, but we have lost something of the moral beauty
that comes from independent development. Our value as
commercial, wage-earning instruments is, perhaps, thereby
increased, but our individuality of character as men is as
(Died isth April, 1888.)
T^HE sunshine of mid- April comes again
And crowns with gold sweet Oxford's dreaming towers,
And clothes in green thy scholar-gipsy's bowers
Cumner and Bagleywood and Hinkseys twain.
This day thy sudden summons came, strong soul,
To join that stronger soul, thy valiant sire,
In God's vast labour-house we know not where,
And bring thy force to its clear-purposed goal.
Self-poised thou wert ; a stoic mind austere,
That would have man on his own strength rely,
And look within, nor cureless ills deplore ;
Untutored still, thy voice he will not hear,
Nor heed thy prayer for peace that plaintive cry
Against the restless world's loud brawling roar.
[Artist. Died, of injuries received in a disaster on the Midland Railway
near Cudworth Junction, aist January, 1905, aged 32.]
S ar( ^ en i s a treasure-house of flowers,
Tulips yellow and blush and fiery red ;
And hyacinths, that mount in azure towers
When May's bright magic stirs their hidden powers,
Ring round the centre bed.
And one strong, pregnant stem of promise fair
Drew every morn my gaze to watch its rise,
As shook its beaded petals out to air,
Waxing from green to purple, rich and rare,
Ever a new surprise.
Till an unskilful gardener, sent to mow
The grassy plots and free from disarray
The gravel walks that wander to and fro,
Struck down my fragrant spike with luckless blow,
And bore it crush'd away.
[Rector, Aberdeen Grammar School. Died i6th May, 1902, aged 56.]
r T"'HE flag droops midway in the drizzling rain
* Above the halls which hear his voice no more,
Who pierced the net of circumstance and bore
With eager foot across the open plain,
Eyeing the crags afar, striving amain
To scale the dazzling peaks of classic lore ;
Up these he clomb and saw the farther shore
How fair; then turning, victor, he was fain
With beck'ning hand and kindly voice to cheer
The tender stripling through the rocky way,
And many won the upward road ; but he
Was thrust by dire mischance's random spear,
And crept on broken wing and falteringly
To where the friendly Shadow waiting lay.
AN OCTOBER RUN
" One crowded hour of glorious life
Is worth an age without a name."
r "T' HE beech leaves are flying, and the pine-tops dance
JL wildly as they are caught and cuffed by the south-west
gale. Black, ominous clouds gloom over the sky and fleet
before the wind from horizon to horizon ; the weather-wise
shake their dissuasive heads when, rod in hand, you step
on the railway platform and announce your intention of trying
for a salmon. " The river is too low and clear ; the stream
is thick with floating leaves," they object, while the strength
of the wind and the absence of sunshine are gravely urged as
fatal circumstances. But it is your last chance for the season,
and the " last taste of sweet is sweetest," so that hope easily
brushes aside the quid-nuncs' wisdom and promises herself a
pleasant outing, even if the central factor of " a kill " be
eliminated. Are not the autumn tints glowing at their ruddiest ?
Is not that prize enough, even though this basket be empty?
So you trudge off serenely, resolved to be content with the
beauties of nature, and, indeed, at this season these are sufficient
to fill the least imaginative soul with ecstasy. The harmonious
blending of yellows and reds and greens that the wooded
reaches of the Dee valley present when October is waning,
appeals to most minds, albeit its full beauty can be realised
and felt only by the artist. The flaming red of the beeches,
brighter in contrast with the glaucous green of the surrounding
Scotch firs ; the delicate, pale gold of the lace-work-like leafage
of the silver-boled birch ; the wild cherry flicking the rosy
68 ALEXANDER MACKIE
remnants of its summer's pride ; and the bronze of the fading
oak are all painted with nature's lavish and liberal hand.
Flowers there are none ; but their place is taken by something
more massive and splendid and on a scale eclipsing their
minuter beauties. The doghips, still intact, shine bright on
every rosebush by the wayside, and the bare stubble fields are
relieved in colouring by the contiguous green of the leafy
turnip. Within the wood, the beech nuts and acorns are
pattering to the ground ; through the withered bracken, dry
and sapless and light chocolate in hue, creep the trailing
bramble shoots, beaded here and there by glistening fruit ; and
the litter of leaves already fallen without, to all appearance,
materially diminishing the glories overhead and not yet
compounded with the earth from which the sun's magic lured
them, rustles crisply under the passing foot. Where the wind
has not disturbed them, the scattered leafage lies inches deep,
and suggests Milton's " thick as autumnal leaves in Vallom-
brosa " ; but, aloft, the breeze whistles and soughs and surges
in the tree tops ; here, in the covert, you are in a haven of
peace, and your footfall on the velvet carpet of moss, or a
springy bed of fir-needles, makes no sound ; you are in a hushed
retreat which no boisterous gusts can pierce.
You emerge at the river bank, where the flying gold of the
woodlands is being rapidly liquidated by the spendthrift gale
and whirled into the swift and silvery Dee. You are soon
equipped for warfare, and your fly is searching the depths of
a likely pool. Carefully you cover one pool after another,
but without result, and you begin to credit the wisdom of your
would-be prophets. The wind is furious and troublesome, and,
as they predicted, the stream is aglow with floating leaves ; but
you do not despair. The sun breaks through the clouds and
sends a jubilant ray into the pellucid stream, lighting up each
rounded pebble in the river bed. You are casting mechanically,
for you have not had one spark of encouragement to keep
AN OCTOBER RUN 69
your attention on the alert, when suddenly you feel a sturdy
jerk, and that indescribable electric tremor that comes from
contact with a living thing, and in a flash you realise that your
fly has gone home, and that you have an exciting struggle
before you. At first you see nothing, but your line moves
with a steady pull up-stream into the more broken water ;
gradually the pace increases as your victim seems to realise
the gravity of his predicament, and when he reaches the neck
of the current he sends your heart into your mouth by
plunging for a brief moment into visibility. So sudden is the
movement, and so unexpected the size of the fish, that for a
second your will-power is paralysed, and you forget that most
elementary precept in such circumstances, the necessity of
lowering your rod ; but fortune is kind, and no mishap occurs.
He darts across to the opposite bank, while your reel " skirls "
fiercely, and your nineteen-foot rod bends like a bow. That
short glimpse of his shining bulk bespeaks a twenty-pounder
at least, and your friends who have come to give help and
guidance begin to speculate on your chances of a successful
issue. " Remember the smallness of your hook, and be
cautious." " Do not dally, for something may get chafed, and
he may break away." It is needless to attempt adhering to
these contradictory counsels, for the fish has it all his own
way for a time down-stream on this side, then awthart the
current and up-stream on the other side ; then a fall back to
deeper water and again a charge forward, and these see-saw
manoeuvres are repeated again and again. If your prey had
only the wit to rush up-stream in one continuous and sustained
effort, he would leave you hopelessly behind and soon exhaust
your reserve of line, and liberty would be his ; but, fortunately,
this policy .has not dawned as yet on the piscine brain. You
keep a tight line, and, being constantly on the move, he by
and by begins to labour and roll. For twenty minutes you
pace up and down, muscle and mind on the strain, till your
;o ALEXANDER MACKIE
biceps, unaccustomed to this kind of exertion, trembles and
aches. A happy moment is chosen, and your friend steps out
with the gaff to bring the fish to land, but his spirit is yet
unbroken, and the sight of a human being in so close proximity
sends him forth once more on his wild career. A second time
and a third time the same thing happens, but at last he is
flapping his tail on the pebbly strand. He turns the scales
at 22^ 2 x lbs. a plump and silvery fish with a cicatrix behind
the dorsal fin interesting record of an attack by seal or otter,
from which he happily escaped to fall into more appreciative
It is time for lunch, which all are agreed has been well
earned, but, after an hour's adjournment, operations start
afresh. The wind is more violent, the shower of whirling leaves
thicker than ever, but the sun continues to throw his bright
gleams over the wooded banks, brightening the islets of colour
in the sea of pines. There is no fresh excitement until you
come to the scene of your early triumph, and at the identical
spot where that took place, you hook another fish. His
tactics are the same, but he is less heavy, more sombre in
colour, less determined in spirit. Moreover, you are more at
your ease. " Use lessens marvel." In a few minutes he, too,
is jerking his expansive tail on the clean pebbles a nineteen-
pounder, which, if he had stood alone, would have been some-
thing to speak of, but he suffered from eclipse by a greater.
The sun declines in the west, and with it goes the sobbing
wind ; the hush of a cloudless autumn evening settles on the
hills. A star peeps out, and in the gathering dusk you make
for the railway station and the bustle of the city streets, but
you will fight your battles o'er again, and recall that October
day with no mean pride.
A BLIZZARD IN BUCHAN
LECTURING UNDER DIFFICULTIES
"'Twas a rough night."
" My young remembrance cannot parallel
A fellow to it."
" Macleth "
THE good people of Aberdeen who on Friday evening sat
comfortably at their own firesides and rejoiced over the
break-up of the frost can hardly realise the furious tempest
that raged during the night in the exposed uplands of Buchan.
Some experiences of the East Aberdeenshire weather that has
to be faced in the course of an electoral campaign have
recently been recorded ; it was the lot of the present writer to
encounter a series of misadventures which he humbly thinks
surpassed them all. He was not in Buchan for the purpose
of exploiting any political propaganda, but merely to deliver
an innocent lecture on a non-political subject. The roads
were reported clear, the abnormal frosts of the previous days
having performed their silent ministry, unhelped by any wind,
but the partial and half-hearted thaw of Friday afternoon
brought with it a stiff north-wester which, gathering force as
the evening hours drew on and making a plaything of the
loose, unpacked snow, soon built it up in long, deep, fantastic
and corniced drifts that made locomotion of every kind a
As we left the snug village of New Deer, bound for the
more upland region of Cairnbanno, some four miles distant,
72 ALEXANDER MACKIE
the snow powder was drifting across the highway in a fashion
that boded ill for the return journey, but this did not frighten
us. It was just 7 o'clock. The anonymous comet was clearly
visible as an interloping intruder low down in the western sky ;
the merry tinkle-tinkle of the sleigh-bells was cheery antidote
to the crunching and rasping sound of the runners as we glided
swiftly over a somewhat bumpy road. We were soon out in
the open country where the drifts lay athwart the road, not at
right angles, but askew, and tapering off in uncertain and
irregular ridges not easy to negotiate. In the dim, weird light
just preceding moonrise, the drifts were discernible only by
the rise and fall of the sledge, as it took the billowy ridges like
a boat heaving on waves. All went well for half the distance,
although several times our steed, plunging unexpectedly into
wreaths of great depth, lost his foothold and came down on his
knees. He always righted himself, however. Then we reached
a much-exposed part of the thoroughfare, across which the
wind whistled with terrific fury, whirling clouds of fine snow
particles in blinding gusts, right in the face of man and beast.
All eyes were shut in self-defence for a brief moment. This
lapse from attention cost us dear. The sledge bumped, turned
sideways at a high angle, and then, canting over gently to the
left, deposited driver and passenger headlong in a deep drift.
The sway of the sleigh shafts caught the horse unawares as he
made a wild plunge forward ; he slipped, stumbled and fell,
and there we were all blent in one white heap! It was a
downy fall ; the only risk was from the kicking horse. The
driver promptly flew to the animal's head ; the passenger
humbly strove to right the inverted sleigh a task quite beyond
the strength of one pair of arms. In the absence of extraneous
help we were paralysed, and might pass the night in this
predicament. No house in view ; nothing but blinding drift
and a wind that cut like a knife. I was planning to run ahead
and call for succour, when providentially appeared a youth,
A BLIZZARD IN BUCHAN 73
looming out of the haze a white and ghost-like figure. Grasp-
ing our plight, he promptly retreated to summon assistance.
Soon a dancing lantern was visible in the rear, and behind it
came several willing helpers, wind-swept, snow-white forms,
looking larger than human in the thick gloom. We made a
weird picture, something between Lieutenant Shackleton's illus-
trations of Antarctic blizzards and the half-light scenes that we
are accustomed to associate with the dim underworld of Hades
and classical mythology. A second lantern hove in sight. A
" lassie " with brown hair and flying skirts came to join the
company. There we stood, a semi-circle of blanched figures,
with backs to the wind hair, whiskers, headgear, every
" Ay, Geordie, that's an immas nicht."
" Man, I nivver saw the marra o't."
" Bit f ar's the horse ? "
The query was relevant, for meantime both horse and the
driver holding down his head were all but out of sight in the
accumulating snow, and the sleigh itself was also fast disap-
pearing from view. Willing hands, however, set to work ;
shovels were procured ; the shafts were at last withdrawn from
the vehicle and the good horse, relieved from his awkward and
constrained horizontal posture, once more stood on his feet.
It was, however, pronounced useless to proceed further with
the sleigh. Horse and trap were relegated to the adjacent
farm, whence such opportune help had come. The remainder
of the journey had to be accomplished on foot. So the writer
trudged on, under guidance, to Cairnbanno School. On enter-
ing the schoolroom, he must have looked a veritable Father
Christmas. The humorous shout that greeted him from a
packed audience, which after waiting patiently for half an
hour was beginning to despair of his appearance, was cheering,
and put hearers and speaker in touch at once.
The lecture over, there was the ordeal of the return journey.
74 ALEXANDER MACKIE
The wind had, if anything, increased, and the wreaths had
grown larger in the two hours' interval. Our plans were to
return on foot to the farm where the horse and trap were in
shelter. This took time, but the lantern of a friendly guide
was a great help. It warned us of the proximity of a drift,
and gave us the chance of circumventing it, where that was
possible. Notwithstanding this aid, blinded by the gale and
advancing with half -shut eyes, we made occasional false steps
and found ourselves suddenly up to the waist in a slanting
ridge, and must wrestle out as we best could. The unwonted
exertion sets the circulation in a glow ; we are breathless and
gasping, but plunge on. Ultimately we have to take to the
cultivated land snowfields, waste and pathless where the
drifts are less in evidence than in the roadway, and thus by a
circuitous route we reach the comfortable stable where our
horse is in shelter. Munching his hay in sweet content he
seemed averse to taking the road again ; but there was no
remedy. For a mile we paced along slowly and warily without
mishap, pausing now and then, after the fiercer gusts, to let
the steed recover his wind ; then forward to the next series
of obstructions. By and by we reached a more perverse section
than ordinary. The horse was up to his haunches at every
step, and quite unable to keep his feet. Right ahead the
same conditions seemed to persist as far as the eye in the
misty moonlight could pierce. It was impossible to proceed ;
the sledge must be left behind. Most opportunely we suc-
ceeded in finding an open gate, led the horse into the field,
unharnessed him, and, leaving the sleigh to be recovered in
daylight and under less strenuous circumstances, we once more
took to the highway on foot. It was a weary and exhausting
journey. My cheery driver, lantern in hand, led the horse ;
I followed, carrying the useless and irrelevant whip. By a
frequent shout he ascertained whether his passenger was keep-
ing in touch with his lead. Wreath after wreath had to be
A BLIZZARD IN BUCHAN 75
laboriously surmounted. We advanced but slowly. At last,
however, the welcome lights of the village of New Deer came
in sight, and at midnight I was seated before a blazing fire,
drying my steaming garments, and thankful to have reached
a sheltering haven. At the inn I found a fellow-traveller a
well-known citizen of Glasgow whose sleigh had preceded
mine by an hour, and just succeeded in getting through safely.
A pipe was heaven upon earth after such exhausting efforts.
My dreams were all of ghostly forms emerging from regions
of gloom, of horses plunging wildly up to their haunches in
piles of soft, yielding snow, and of my own helpless legs sink-
ing deeper and deeper in drifts that seemed to be bottomless.
AT THE GRAVE OF BURNS
[Dumfries, igth August, igoo.]
"\\7THO will not pause, great soul, beside thy dust
"" And silent cast his thought far back to days
When thou didst tread these very streets, with praise
From few and bitter blame from many thrust
Into thy feeling ear? Our times, more just,
Forgetting frailties of the blood, thy blots erase
And know thee better ; crowd thy tomb with bays
And keep thy purer metal clear of rust.
The limpid Nith, since death first laid thee low,
Has babbled past thy mouldering clay and borne
Thee many a greeting from thy leafy cot
At Ellisland ; there still the daisies grow ;
The scudding hare and tim'rous mouse yet mourn
The kindly heart that sang their humble lot.
A BLACK FISHING
ye think, Geordie, 't ye cud get a salmon for the
morn's denner? I hiv twa deuks an' the turkey 't
yer auntie sent, bit I think a bittie salmon wud be something
oot o' the ordinar', an', min' ye, we've a lot o' fowk comin'.
There's fourteen, coontin' wersels, an' they'll a' be gey yap
aifter their lang walk in this snell weather."
" Ah, weel, 'ooman, it's easy to say ' salmon ' ; there'll be
nae diffeeculty in gettin' plenty o' fish, an' they were sae lang
in winnin' into the fresh watter this year, owin' to the great
drucht, an' they're in gran' order an' nae a bit reed, an' Fse
warran' they'll ett weel. Bit, min' ye, the baillies is aye
hingin' aboot, an' if I wis catched, it wud be a dear fish to me
an' to you, tee. Hooever, since ye've set yer hert upon haein'
a bittie to set aff the big denner, I'll risk it. I'll tak' Jock
wi' me, aifter it's weel gloam't, an' wi' the help o' a lantern
we sud bag a braw fishie in a handclap."
It was Christmas Eve, and Geordie had finished his mid-
day dinner, when this conversation took place. The house in
which they lived was on the highway, at no great distance
from the river, and it must be confessed the temptation was
very great. Geordie Howie was a decent, respectable man,
who would have disdained a theft or any other kind of
immoral conduct, but to take from the river a fish which was
no man's actual property, somehow struck his ethical sense
as no crime at all, if only the deed could be done outside
the knowledge of the properly-constituted authorities whose
duty it was to guard against such offences.
78 ALEXANDER MACKIE
Geordie smoked his pipe meditatively for twenty minutes,
and then summoned his son Jock to make a preliminary
" Jock, min, yer mither's verra anxious to get a salmon for
wir denner the morn ; div ye think we cud manage to grab
ane, on-been seen, the nicht ? "
" Och, fine that ; I wis up the waterside yesterday, an' the
Haugh Pot's jist swarmin' wi' fish that hinna begood to spawn
yet. Come awa' up bye Cottie's fyord an' I'll lat ye see
them. Bit we'll need to keep a gleg e'e for the baillies. I
saw them dodgin' aboot, up this wye, yesterday aifterneen."
" Ye're richt, Jock ; that's the warst o't, an' if we were
ta'en it wud be an awfu' disgrace, nae to mention a gey
heavy fine. I'm thinkin' we'd better be content wi' the deuks
an' the turkey an' nivver min' the salmon."
" Na, na, we'll tak' the risk, I hinna been at a black fishin'
for a while, an' I wad fain hae a try."
" Weel, weel, laddie ; your wye be't ; bit f oorty years ago,
we eesed to be at it ilka week in the winter time, an' mony
a guid dookin' hae I gotten in sic ploys. An' aince a man wis
drooned ae November nicht fan the watter wis in spate. It
wis Willie Mutch fae the smiddy. He miss't his stroke at a
fish an' fell aff the bank into deep watter, an' though we heard
his cries, naebody cud see him i' the dark, an' he wis cairrit
doon wi' a strong current. That stoppit the black fishing here
aboot for that winter, I can tell you."
While this conversation was proceeding, the two would-be
poachers, father and son, made their way across stubble fields
to the river-bank and moved up, their eyes fixed on the river-
bed, to the Haugh Pot. Here they stood a considerable
time, counting the fish, which were easily visible in the clear
water, and planning the attack, which was to take place under
cover of the darkness.
This was their fatal blunder, and one which they were not
A BLACK FISHING 79
likely to have made if they had been more " habit and
repute " poachers. While they stood by the Haugh Pot,
pointing this way and that as their plan of campaign evolved
itself in their minds, they were observed by the two bailiffs,
who happened to be taking a short cut round the hillside to
another part of the river.
"Fa's that stan'in' at the Haugh Pot, Duncan?"
" I think it's Geordie Howie an' his sin Jock. Fat are
they deein' there, I winner? I some doot they're castin' a
covetous e'e on the fish."
" Man, it looks verra like it, bit Geordie's a most respect-
able man, an' wadna try ony tricks seerly."
" I dinna ken ; I widna trust 'im verra far. Ye ken, he's
ane o' the auld school an' wis brocht up here in the days
when black fishing wis a regular thing, so he's weel up to
" Boon amo' the heather wi' ye, than, an' I'll scan them
through my gless. They're bidin' ower lang at that spot."
Unaware that they were being spied upon, the two Howies
made their arrangements and then quietly retraced their steps
the way they came. Every movement they made was closely
watched through the glass concealed among the brown heather.
" I really believe they're arrangin' to spear a fish or twa
this verra nicht. We'll need to be here, Duncan, aifter dark.
I'm convinced frae the wye they're lookin' an' talkin', an'
frae the pointin' o' han's an' shakin' o' heids, that there's
something in the win'. Lie low here till they're back an'
into the hoose."
Half-an-hour afterwards the two watchers rose from their
covert on the heathery hillside and stepped leisurely down the
highway past George Howie's cottage. George himself they
encountered a few steps from the door.
" Ay, George, that's a fine nicht."
" Ay, min, is't ; it's gyaun to the frost."
8o ALEXANDER MACKIE
"We'll be nane the waur o' that; it'll help to harden the
roads a bit for them 't has trampin' to dae the morn."
" Faigs, ay, min, that's weel min't ; it's Christmas day.
Faur are ye gyaun to ha'd it this year ? "
" Ow, we're jist on wer wye doon to the village, for there's
a bit ploy on the nicht a kin' o' a concert, wi' readin's an'
recitations an' that ; the morn there's to be a hare-drive at
" Weel, weel, I houp you'll enjoy yersels. Gweed nicht."
" Gweed nicht, George."
So they parted. When out of earshot, Duncan said, with
a wink to his colleague " That was a good shot, wasn't it ?
He'll think the coast's clear for ae nicht ; but we'll see."
Night fell, clear and starlit, but without a moon. As soon
as the last streaks of twilight had been absorbed in the dark-
ness, Geordie and Jock set off with a dark lantern and their
well-sharpened leister. They took no precautions to conceal
their movements, being completely taken in by the bailiff's
plausible bluff. Soon they were at the Haugh Pot. The
lantern was opened, and Geordie cast its " long levelled rule
of streaming light " far across the pool in the direction of the
spot where several fish had been seen swaying backwards and
forwards in the river-bed during the afternoon. A few fish
rose to the light and gradually approached the bank, following
its gleam. Jock was ready, two or three feet below his father,
with the salmon spear in his hand.
" They're comin' in fine, bit be in nae hurry. Pick oot a
guid ane an' keep aff o' reed, ugly brutes. That's a reed ane
on the richt ; dinna min' him ; bit yonner's a sma'er fish on the
left, clear an' shinin', wi' nae reed aboot 'im. That's yer
fish! Keep yer e'e on 'im. I'll bring the licht roon, an' coax
'im nearer. Noo, wait till he's close in an', min' ye, be
sure ye dinna lose yer balance an' get a dookin' ! Now, then,
in wi't ! "
A BLACK FISHING Si
Jock struck as directed, and in an instant the fish was
struggling like a mad thing on the grassy bank. A blow or
two on the head from Geordie's stick brought the struggles
to a sudden end. The lantern was closed, and Jock shouldered
" That's quick work. Yer mither'll get her salmon aifter
a'. We cud a' ta'en half-a-dizzen an' naebody ony the wiser.
We've fairly diddled the baillies this time."
But a hand was laid on George's shoulder, and Duncan, the
bailiff, said in a quiet tone :
" Nae sae fast, Geordie ; ye're catched red-handed ; we
thocht the concert micht be slow, so we took a step back to
see if there wis ony poachers aboot."
Mrs. Howie's dinner party was a failure in so far as the
menu did not contain a toothsome dish of salmon, and there
were vacant chairs, the head of the house and his eldest son
being unavoidably absent. The two unhappy culprits enjoyed
a humble dinner in less lovely surroundings, and on the Monday
following were fined thirty shillings each, with the expenses.
Needless to say, they have no more longing to taste the
forbidden joys of a black fishing.
A CHRISTMAS TURKEY
A PRO XT Y bird an' wechty took my e'en at Buchan's store,
Wi' his heid amo' the rabbits and his lang legs near
the door ;
He wis saxteen pun, untrussit, and brocht fifteen shillings
Fan the shopman dump'd him doon, markit " sold," upo' the
Awat he wis a hansom bird ; we niwer ate his marra,
And hatch'd and bred he wis, they said, oot ower the wye o'
A fairmer's wife, ca'd Murdo, got a present frae a frien'
O' half a dizzen turkey's eggs for something she had deen ;
She set them in the month o' Mairch an' oot cam' chuckens
But ane dee't, bein' dorty, and that left fower alive ;
They threeve gey weel a' simmer, feather'd fast, nor trailt a
Syne ae bird shot ayont the rest an' grew a kin' o' king.
The bairnies ca'd him " Wallace," an' pettit him f orbye,
Gaed him bitties o' their " pieces " an' pat taties in his wye ;
The rascal kent them brawly an' cam' sornin' roon the byre
Wi' his " bubble-bubble-bubble " an' his heid as reid's the fire.
An' ilka week the bigger an' the fatter did he growe,
Till there wasna turkey like 'im a' up an' doon the Howe.
A CHRISTMAS TURKEY 83
He focht wi' ilka ither cock an' maister'd ane an' a',
He frichtened the fite pussy cat an' fleyt the dog awa' ;
He wis first oot i' the mornin' an' the last to bed at nicht,
An' aye at every f eedin' time he gorged wi' a' his micht ;
When unco fowk gaed up the close, he kerit them by their
An' syne he puff d his feathers oot and set his heid ablaze.
When Yule-tide cam', the merchan' sent roon for hens and
To feed the hungry toon's fowk, an' mak' wark for sonsy
So, on a winter's mornin', 'fore the bairns were to the road,
The gude-wife an' the herd loon pu'd him aff his sleepin' brod,
An' lytht the neck o' Wallace, an' the necks o' twa-three mair,
Syne pluckit them an' weyed them an' sent them aff wi' care.
Nae winner tho' he drew me that day at Buchan's show,
He wis, onleet, the snoddest bird in a' the bonny row ;
I bocht him, an' we ate him, little thinkin' o' the woe
That clooded a' the bairns, who had loo'd him like a Joe,
When at porridge-time they learn'd that murdered he had
An' was aff, in Sandie's cairt, on his wye to Aiberdeen.
I AT THE HEN-WIFE'S
IT was a Saturday afternoon at the end of May, and Marget,
the hen-wife at Castle Brand, had just " maskit " her
tea when she was favoured with a visit from Janet Broon,
the gudewife o' Hillbrae.
" Weel, Marget, an' f oo are ye the nicht ? "
" Eh, I'm glaid to see ye, Janet. Come ben an' le'n ye
doon. The ta/11 be ready in a han'clap. I'm nae that ull,
only jist for-foch'en wi' ower muckle te dee. I hae nae less
nor ten big brodmils o' chuckens to feed, forbye's my deuks
an' my geese an' my turkeys. An' this weet wither mak's
the craiters dorty specially the young turkeys. They get
trachled amo' the weet girss, an' syne they begin to trail a
wing an' jist dwine awa'. They're deein' aff, twa-three ilka
day. Weel-a-wat, they keep me in a fry fae mornin' to nicht,
an' it's an anger to see them pinin' an' slippin' oot amo' yer
" Hoot awa' ; bit seerly the wither's gaun to brichten up a
bit. Saw ye iver sic a time o' weet? Oor road's for a' the
earth like porridge. Look at my queets! A day or twa like
this wud seen dry them up though. I howp it's sattled. Bit
fat's a' this reerie aboot doon at the Castle? I heard the
terriblest squallochin' o' fowk, an' skirlin' o' pipes, an' platoons
o' sheetin' doon-by, as I cam' ower the hill. It wis a din by
ordinar'. I nivver heard the like in a' my born days."
" Weel, ye may jist say't. Heard ye iver sic a pana-
monia? Bit far hae ye been, 't ye hinna heard the news?
It's wir gair'ner's waddin'. He's ta'en the quine Mackenzie,
auld Donald's dother, the Heelan' keeper. It's been keepit
something secret, I'm thinkin', bit it's a fyow days now sin I
heard o't, an' I oonerstan' there wis to be a great gaitherin'
o' fowk, an' awat they made plenty o' din. Auld Peggy Stewart
THE MAIRRAGE 85
wis up here the streen an' gae me a' the rinnins o't. Ye see,
Geordie's a muckle-thocht-o' man, an' a grait faavorit' wi' the
leddy, an' awyte he's a weel-deein' chiel, an' a weel-faured,
strappin' lad. He his a gey gude billet noo, sin' the laird biggit
a' that het hooses an' vineries. He his half a dizzen o' men
ooner 'im, an' they sen' up hampers o' flooers, carnations an'
roses twice ilka week to Lunnon, an' cairns o' ither things
forbye peaches, an' grapes, an' strawberries oot o' sizzon.
Awyte he's far ben wi' the muckle fowk. Weel, it's bit
nait'ral 't the chappie sid tak' a wife to keep's hoose snod for
'im. An' I'se warran' he's been leukin' oot for a fylie. Only
he's been some bauch aboot it, an' naebody guesst far he wid
licht. He'd ees't to pey some attention to the merchan's
dother, bit, aye sin' she spint that sax ooks wi' her auntie
in Aiberdeen, she's been haddin' her heid gey heich, an' wis
ance or twice barely ceevil tae the gair'ner. My certie, she
mith'a deen waur nor tak' 'im. She'll maybe hae to bide awee
afore anither seeks her ; bit it wud appear there's nae ane here-
aboot gweed eneuch for 'er. Weel, as I wis sayin', Peggy taul
me 't the gair'ner hid been gaun aff an' on to the gamekeeper's
hoose ilka ither ook, bit Kathie's Heelan', ye ken, an' though
she cairrit on a hyse wi' 'im an' wis fond o' a' kin' o' damn',
she wisna abeen makin' fun o' 'im noo an' then. She's a
tongue 't wid clip cloots, ye ken. Geordie's nae verra ready
wi' his tongue, that's nae his strong pint, an' the cuts she gae
'im neer han' frichtened 'im. He wis a kin' o' fley't to taikle
'er, an' he hung back. He wud'a fain speert 'er, bit bein'
a trifle dootfu 1 gin she wid hae 'im, an' 'er aul' f adder haein'
naebody bit 'ersel' to leuk aifter his hoose, he thocht her
f adder wid be sweer to lat 'er go. So, that wye, he nivver cam'
to the pint. Min' ye, I dinna ken ; I'm jist tellin' you fat
Peggy taul' me. Weel, this had been gaen on sin' the New
Yeir. They war makkin' nae heidwye at a' tull the en' o'
Febberwary. An' this is Leap Yeir, ye ken. On the twenty-
86 ALEXANDER MACKIE
nint o' the month Geordie set oot to pey his usual visit (he
turnt up aye ance a week) ; he wis dresst like the laird wi' ane
o's grand reid carnations i' the button-hole o's kwyte, an'
leukin' as spruce as a new preen. Her fadder hid been awa'
a' day at the salmon nshin' wi' Sir John's cousin, Maister Hardy,
fae India, an' wisna come hame. So Geordie for ance got
Kathie a' tull 'imsel'. They sat awa' at the fireside an' warna
seemin'ly gettin' muckle to say, for the lassie wis aye brichtest
an' jolliest fin a third pairty wis present. Geordie wis pittin'
in the time playin' wi' the black retriever, fin Kathie made his
hert dunt by askin' 'im if he kent fatna day this wis. He's
some blate, ye see, tho' weel up to his ain wark, an' it nivver
struck 'im 't it wis the leap year day. Weel, wud ye believe 't ?
Peggy says 't there an' then the jaud proposed to 'im, an' peer
Geordie, glaid to see his diffeeculties ta'en awa', agreed to tak'
'er at Whitsunday. It wis to be keepit dark till near-han'
the time. The invitations war sent roon' only a fortnicht syne.
Awyte there wud be a gran' turn oot ; an' a big denner wis
to be ready at the Castle. The ooner-gair'ners an' a' the
dogmen and gillies war to be there, an' they war to bring their
guns and keep up the splore by sheetin' nae end. Nae winner
tho' ye h'ard the din o' them."
" Weel, weel ! It's keerious 't I nivver h'ard a cheep o't.
Bit ye see we're at the back o' the wardle up by at Hillheid,
an' I hivna been at the chop for a fylie, an' the last twa
Sundays hae been sae weet 't I didna gang near the kirk or
I wud'a been seer to hear something aboot it."
" That wye ye've been a' ahin'. Bit that's the story, an'
I'm seer I wuss them baith weel. Kathie's nae an ull craiter,
an' awyte she's aye been verra kin' to 'er aul' fadder. An'
for a' 'er reid heid an' her lang tongue she's a trig, bonny
deemie, an' sud mak' a gude wife to Geordie. I'm sair pay't
tho' for the aul' gaimie ; he'll hae to get some ane to manage
for 'im. He's nae sae young as he ance wis. They say 't
THE MAIRRAGE 8;
he's worth a hantle o' siller. Ye see he's aye been in the wye
o' gettin' gweed tips at the sheetin' time fae the laird's freens,
fin they come to slaachter the pairtrichs an' the phe'san's, an'
some o' the Lunnon fowk, them 't kens fat's fat, hae taul' 'im
far to invest his savin's. An' that wye o't he'll leave a gey
curn bawbees fin he weers awa'. An' I heard that the Laird
had presented George wi' a spaacious mahogany sideboord,
an' gien 'im an eke tull's salary."
" Ye fairly hae the news, Marget. I'm glaid I leukit doon.
Bit it's time I wis settin' hamewuth. I'll get up my fit for
bidin' sae lang. Gweed nicht to ye. I'm muckle obleegt t'
ye for a' yer braw news."
" Gweed nicht, Janet, an' haste ye back."
II AT THE MERCHANT'S
Miss Jeanie M'Eachern, the merchant's daughter, was also
favoured with a visit. Her friend, Betty Simpson, cycled
over from the village of Littletown to have a chat with her
erstwhile school companion.
" Eh, Betty ! Is that you ? I'm sorry 't oor Jeanie's nae
at hame the nicht. She's awa' ower the Sunday to Aiberdeen
to see her auntie."
" Oh, I'm awfully sorry ; but it really doesn't matter. It
was such a fine afternoon that I thought I would run over and
see how you all were. But the roads are awful bad with mud.
I've just tasht my new cycle. But what's ado in the parish
to-day? I never saw such a commotion, and my head's
deaved with the shooting."
" It's a mairrage the waddin' o' that muckle taupie Sir
John's gair'ner. He's mairryin' the keeper's dother, a hally-
racket, Heelan' quine, wi' a heid as reid's fire, an' an awfu'
lang tongue. She's been huntin' 'im doon for a towmond, an'
the peer coof his been nabbit at the lang length. She wis nivver
oot o's gairden, I believe, hin'erin' his wark an' spungin' upon
88 ALEXANDER MACKIE
'im for flooers an' fruit an' vegetables. Last year I had to
sen' Jeanie to the gairdens geyan aften aboot my jam, an* ilka
time 't she gaed, fa wis there bit Kathie Mackenzie an' a' her
towsy tykes ? Jeanie wis fair affronted wi' 'er ; the wye she
cairrit on afore the men wis eneuch to scunner a body. I'm
sorry for the silly gomeral, only he's pitten his heid into the
mink wi' his een open. The gowk'll repent it yet, or a' be deen.
Ye niwer saw sic a fizz as there's been aboot this waddin'.
Ye wad really think 't naebody had ivver been mairrit in th'
pairish afore. The Laird has paintit an' papert the gair'ner's
bit hoose for 'im, an' gien 'im a sideboord, nae less. Fat's a
common gair'ner deem' wi' a sideboord? An' the leddy has
giftet the bride wi' a diamond brooch. Fat's she needin*
a diamond brooch for a gaimie's dother? An' the ither
keepers an' gair'ners hae clubbit thegither an' bocht a silver
tea an' coffee service. Na ! Na ! Nae solid silver, I'm thinkin',
bit plated goods, an' the hoose-servan's gae her a muff an' him
a cigarette case an' a silver-munted walkin' stick. An' her
fadder's gi'en 'er a new piano a Braidwud, I believe. They
say he made a bing o' siller by buyin' rubber shares on the
advice o' that man 't wis here fae Ceylon fernyear, an' he's
waur't some o't on this piano. An' they're gaun to keep a
servan' lass an' gweed kens fat a'. The haill kwintra side's f u'
o't. They say 't th' brazen-faced cutty took the chance o' leap
yeir an' proposed t' th' silly sumph hersel', an' I weel believe't.
She his braiss for onything the impident smatchet."
" This is news. I always thought he would take your Jeanie."
" Haud yer tongue ! Nae doot he wud'a fain cast his
een oor gait, but my girl his a min' abeen allyin' hersel T wi'
a man in his hummel station o' life, an' I reckon she gae 'im
little audisence. So he had to fa' back on th' Heelan' limmer.
The jaud'll lead 'im a fine life wi' her dogs, an' 'er flooers, an'
'er meesic, an' 'er poetry, an' th' lang Heelan' tongue o' her ;
only, it's like to like, an' motty saut's gweed for hairy butter."
THE LOON FAE AIBERDEEN
HIS legs war lang an' lanky an' his face wis unco fyte,
As loupin' fae the dog-cairt, he threw aff his muckle
He lookit freely sober and nae sowens supp'd ava
Fan sittin' at's bit sipper, a great f airlie to us a' ;
He cam' to spend his holidays wi's mither's sister, Jean ;
But gin ye jist had seen him, on's return to Aiberdeen!
He wistna fat a coulter is, nor kent a drake fae deuk,
He spier'd as mony questions wad hae fill'd a muckle beuk,
An' fan the foreman tellt's to tramp hay-coles into a soo
The laddie look'd dumfoonert fair, an' thocht 'im daft or foo :
Nae winner tho' they leuch, at times, the fowk o' Dubbystane,
He kent a hantle better, or he wan to Aiberdeen!
He cudna stan' the bubbly-jock an' wudna face the bull,
He hoosh'd awa' the rottens aye, fan he gaed ben the mull ;
Wi' flauchter-spade an' barrow fan we took 'im to the moss,
He layer'd in a boggey place an' made 'imsel' a soss.
He wis oot an' oot a toon's bairn, an' that wis easy seen,
Yet, twa-three things we taucht 'im 'fore he gaed to Aiberdeen !
He guddl'd i' the burn, an' took to sweemin' i' the dam,
Made freens wi' Jock, the herd-loon, as well's the collie Sam,
Could tell aye far the turkeys laid, gie oil-cake to the mairt,
An' syne he learn'd to single neeps, an' yoke a horse an' cairt ;
Tho' far ahin' at startin' he wis gleg an' byous keen,
So he wis better educate, fan back at Aiberdeen!
QO ALEXANDER MACKIE
He hyeuk'd an' ran a salmon for half an oor an' mair,
He shot a wheen o' rabbits, tee, an' aince near pinn'd a hare,
Loot bang ahin' a wild deuk, fleein' by wi' whistlin' wing,
But " Gamie " wisna far awa', an' swore like ony thing ;
Syne order'd him to cut his stick, or, by the licht abeen,
He'd send 'im, i' the bobby's chairge, het-fit to Aiberdeen!
He tried to throw the haimmer, an' awyte it's Gospel fack,
The first time that he floorish'd it, garr'd a'body stan' back,
He speel't the gean-tree ilka nicht an' fill'd his bonnet foo,
To gie to Jinse, the servan' lass, an' blacken a* her moo,
An' fyles made oot to muck the byre, an' bed the nowt at e'en,
A buddin' fairmer, faigs he wis, or he reach'd Aiberdeen.
He led Jess to the smiddy and rade hame upo' her back,
An' wisna blate to men' her trot wi' jist anither smack,
An* on his hin'most Sunday, drave his auntie to Waulkmill,
An' lows'd an' groom'd the shalt 'imsel', as swippert's hostler
Till a' the fowk cried " gweeshtins," fan they saw fat he had
" Ye'll miss that loon, I'm thinkin', fan he gangs to Aiberdeen!"
The sax ouks slippit by, altho' he wisna fain to see't,
But's father sent a letter that the skweel wis gaen to meet,
He beet to pack his boxie wi' his torn breeks an' claes,
An' hurl awa' as gloamin' grey wis sattlin' ower the braes ;
His legs war swack, his cheeks war reid, tho' tears war in his
His mither hardly kent 'im at " the Joint " o' Aiberdeen !
THE LOON FAE FOGGYLOAN
HE wore a muckle gravit and his beets were byous roch,
His knickers warna jist the shape to set a sturdy hoch,
His cockit bonnet sat gey stiff upon his huddry heid,
A stoot an' hardy gurk he wis, wi' cheeks like roses reid.
He came to bide in Aiberdeen a month wi's Uncle John ;
Anither loon he wis fan he gaed back to Foggyloan.
A train wis something new ; he hadna been in ane afore,
For seldom had he liftit fit three miles fae's father's door,
Had nivver seen the sea, nor sailin' ships, excep' in beuks,
Content to sail a boatie ower the dam amo' the deuks.
He keepit's een aye apen tho', an' fan his time wis gone,
He cairrit back a lot, to licht the gloom o' Foggyloan!
He daunert roon the docks a bit an' stuck to Regent Quay,
An' hung aboot the Fish Market as eident as could be ;
He made freens wi' a sailor chap an' gaed aboord a tug
That danc'd him ower the harbour bar an' made him sick's
An' ilka week he stumpit throu' the sands fae Dee to Don,
An' cam' aye back as yap as fae the moss at Foggyloan.
On Fridays at the Castlegate he toited oot and in,
An' kirn'd amo' the orra trock, laid oot to raise the win' ;
An' syne he stacher'd up the street an' throu' the market door,
An' past the basement far the wives were sellin' fish galore ;
" Come buy," they said, " some yellow fish, my bonny laddie,
An' sen' them in a parcel to yer f owk at Foggyloan ! "
92 ALEXANDER MACKIE
The water-cairts, the taxi-cabs, an' twa-deck'd tramway cars,
The spaacious shops an' offices, the kirks an' drinkin' bars,
The Duthie Park, the theatre, and far-fam'd Bauby Law,
The Music Hall, the Toon's Hoose, an* Marischal College
His gleg een sized them a', awat, an' syne fan he wis gone,
They gae him things to gas aboot fan hame at Foggyloan!
On Sunday he wis early up, the first ane doon the stairs,
An' keen to meet the sodgers swingin' by to say their prayers,
An' wisna laith to swall the thrang 'at dogs them up the street,
The meesic wrocht like magic wand upon his muckle feet.
An' files he thocht he'd list, an' tartan kilt an' sporran don,
An' nae jist throw his life awa' to roost in Foggyloan!
His fower weeks rattled swippert by ; the hairst wis jist in
" Ye maun," his mither's letter said, " be hame the morn's nicht."
He packit his belongin's and some gifts within his means
He koft i' the New Market to present to a' his freens,
And as the meen began to glower the Foudland Hills upon,
He steed ance mair within a mile o' gweed auld Foggyloan !
Foregatherin' wi' his cronie Dod (his name wis Geordie Broon),
He tell't 'im a' the fairlies he had seen aboot the toon,
The steamers and the engines, the King Street droves o' swine,
The Beach an' Bathin' Station, far the Zoo keeps beasts in pine,
The fire brigade careerin' to Footdee or Gilcomston,
" There's nae sic stur," he finished up, " in sleepy Foggyloan ! "
THE ROSEMOONT PRESS, ABERDEEN
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY
This book is DUE on the last date stamped below.
ENjVERsrry OF C
rose and verse